Airport says it got passengers on buses quickly after aborted takeoff

Investigators work near a damaged US Airways jet at the end of a runway at the Philadelphia International Airport. (AP photo)
Investigators work near a damaged US Airways jet at the end of a runway at the Philadelphia International Airport. (AP photo)
Posted: March 16, 2014

PHILADELPHIA After US Airways Flight 1702, bound for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., blew a tire and the nose gear collapsed as it prepared to take off from Philadelphia International Airport about 6:20 p.m. Thursday, one male passenger said the worst part of the ordeal was waiting for 30 to 40 minutes in the cold for buses to take the passengers to a terminal.

Why did it take that long to get the 149 passengers and crew of five to a warm building?

Considering all that was going on, 30 minutes was good, said airport and airline officials.

"The first thing everybody had to deal with was the safety and security of the passengers," said airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica. "Then they immediately had to secure the aircraft."

"People were evacuated within minutes. I know from the Fire Department incident commander, they had vehicles out there and were taking women and children, and putting them in their trucks so they could stay warm."

Simultaneously, the airport called for buses used to transport employees between their parking lot and the terminals.

"The buses came as quickly as possible. It wasn't like we have them sitting, waiting, if something happens. They were in use for something else," Lupica said.

"We certainly apologize for anyone's inconvenience," she said.

The first passenger was off the plane at 6:22 and the first bus arrived at 6:52, said US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher. "All customers were on the buses by 7 p.m. No one was out in the elements for more than 38 minutes."

"Not only US Airways personnel, but also first responders and city employees, did a phenomenal job of working together and accommodating our customers," Lehmacher said. "I heard that the Fire Department, the first responders, circled the customers and made a wind break for them, until we could get vans out there."

"I know anecdotally that some of our folks offered their coats to passengers," he said.

During the first 30 minutes, the Federal Aviation Administration halted all arriving and departing flights.

Fire officials put foam around the plane, Lupica said. "There was no fire, but they wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be a fire."

The transport buses maneuvered active runways and taxiways to get to the passengers at the end of Runway 27L. Only when passengers were inside the terminal were three of the airport's four runways reopened.

Passengers got off the plane without coats. Inside the terminal, they "were reunited with their belongings," Lupica said.

Later Thursday night, 114 passengers boarded another aircraft and flew to Fort Lauderdale.

Two passengers requested medical attention and were taken to a local hospital, treated for minor injuries and released.


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