...As Pilots Honored For Saving Flight

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If you ever wonder why the folks up front get the big bucks, consider the day at work American Airlines Capt. Catherine Mertz and First Officer Scott Palmer had when they tried to get their Fokker 100 full of passengers from La Guardia to Chicago last Sept. 4. The plane hit a flock of "large birds" on takeoff, destroying an engine and putting numerous dings on the radome, fuselage and right wing. With the jet vibrating and with unknown damage in parts of the plane they couldn't see, the cockpit crew coaxed a safe emergency landing out of the stricken aircraft at Kennedy International about 13 minutes later. Last Friday their exploits earned them high praise, indeed, from fellow pilots in the Order of Daedalians. Mertz and Palmer were awarded the 2003 Daedalian, Lieutenant General Harold L. George Civilian Airmanship Award for "the most outstanding ability, judgment and/or heroism above and beyond normal operational requirements." The Order of Daedelians is a fraternal order of military pilots. Allied Pilots Association (APA) President John E. Darrah said the union was "very proud of and grateful to" the pilots and called them "a credit to their profession."