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Delta flight makes emergency return after exit slide separates from Boeing aircraft

A Boeing 767 passenger aircraft of Delta Air Lines arrives from Dublin at JFK International Airport in New York as the Manhattan skyline looms in the background on Feb. 7, 2024.
Charly Triballeau
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AFP via Getty Images
A Boeing 767 passenger aircraft of Delta Air Lines arrives from Dublin at JFK International Airport in New York as the Manhattan skyline looms in the background on Feb. 7, 2024.

Updated April 26, 2024 at 3:08 PM ET

A Delta Air Lines flight that departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City was forced to make an emergency return to the airport Friday morning after an emergency slide came apart from the Boeing 767, the airline said. A search for the slide was ongoing.

"After the aircraft had safely landed and proceeded to a gate, it was observed that the emergency slide had separated from the aircraft," a Delta spokesperson said in a statement to NPR Friday afternoon.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said Delta Flight 520 "returned safely to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York around 8:35 a.m. local time on Friday, April 26, after the crew reported a vibration. The FAA will investigate."

The Delta spokesperson said the airline "is fully supporting retrieval efforts and will fully cooperate in investigations."

In an earlier statement, Delta said the flight crew had observed a "flight deck indication related to the right wing emergency exit slide, as well as a sound from near the right wing."

The plane, a Boeing 767-300 that was delivered to Delta in 1990, was on its way to Los Angeles International Airport, but had to return to JFK about an hour into the flight, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking site.

A passenger who was aboard the flight and did not wish to be identified while still in transit told NPR that there was a very loud sound coming from the plane, which made it difficult to hear announcements coming from the cockpit.

The passenger told NPR they felt "overwhelmed" and "really scared" by the experience.

A Delta flight was forced to return to its departure airport.
/ FlightAware
/
FlightAware
A Delta flight was forced to return to its departure airport.

According to imaging from FlightAware, the aircraft circled the tristate area before returning to JFK.

"As nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people, Delta flight crews enacted their extensive training and followed procedures to return to JFK," Delta said in its initial statement to NPR. The airline said the flight crew declared an emergency with air traffic control to receive clearance to return to JFK. The aircraft then landed safely and proceeded to a gate under its own power, it said.

Delta told NPR that there were no pressurization issues on the aircraft. It said the plane has been removed from service and will be thoroughly evaluated.

An aircraft is generally operable for an average of 30 years before being decommissioned, according to Flexport, a global logistics workflow company. The aircraft involved in Friday's incident is around 34 years old, and its expiration date was previously May 2028, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We will defer to Delta for comment," a Boeing spokesperson said.

In June of last year, the same flight, Flight 520 from JFK to LAX on a Boeing 767-300, was forced to make an emergency landing in Utah following on-board technical difficulties.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

C Mandler