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Thu, Feb 09, 2006

Look Out Below! Fighter Canopy Lands In Backyard

L-39 Loses Its Top, Pilot Lands Safely

A Millville, NJ resident had an unwelcome surprise waiting for him in his backyard Tuesday morning -- and no, it wasn't the work of mischievous teenagers.

Mike Lippincott went outside to walk his dog at 6:45 am Tuesday when he came across the shattered remains of what appeared to be the canopy from a fighter aircraft. Lippincott found the 6-foot by 2-foot canopy hanging from a tree in his backyard, near his pool.

"We are very lucky," Lippincott told the Bridgeton News. "The glass that shattered was scattered from one end (of the yard) to the other and there were just a couple of big branches broken from a tree."

After taking a closer look, the homeowner then called the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the fire department and the police.

"When I saw it, I knew what it was," Lippincott said. "The glass was shattered and all over the yard, but the frame was in good shape. It was just sitting in the middle of the yard, right-side up and just like it goes on the plane."

Authorities soon put the pieces of the puzzle together -- and realized the canopy, which came from an L-39 Albatross, had been sitting there for almost a day.

"The plane took off from Millville Airport [Monday] and during the flight the canopy from the aircraft dislodged and fell to the ground," said DRBA spokesman Jim Salmon. "The plane then returned to Millville Airport."

The pilot, identified by Salmon as Steve Bulboff, had just taken off from the Millville Airport when the canopy came off his plane. He was able to return to the airport safely, albeit very likely windblown.

FAA spokeswoman Arlene Murray told the News an investigation into the incident is underway, and that they've been in contact with Bulboff.

"We will look at the maintenance of the aircraft, why it happened, and if any type of action is appropriate against the pilot," she said.

Meanwhile, Lippincott -- who works for the fire department -- is relieved the canopy only hit a tree, and not his home.

"It picked the perfect spot," he said. "With the airport close by we get a lot of planes overhead, but nothing like this has ever happened."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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