Local News

Airports Ready for Emergency Landings

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RALEIGH — Two landings like the ones that occurred, successfully, Sunday atRaleigh-Durham International Airportare unusual. However, the term "emergency landing" is often misleading. Generally planes land without incident, and airport spokesmen say if the so-called emergencies are life-threatening, the airport is ready.

AnAmerican AirlinesMD-80 made an emergency landing Sunday afternoon at RDU International. One engine lost power but the captain was able to re-start it before landing.

An alarm indicating fire or smoke went off on aU.S. AirwaysExpress Regional jet.

"That is a very critical situation in an aircraft, and it fortunately later proved to be untrue," said Mike Blanton of RDU public affairs.

TheFederal Aviation Administrationdesignates three status alerts. An indication something is amiss is alert one; discovery of an actual mechanical problem is alert two; alert three indicates damage, a fire or a more serious problem.

"The reason we have those alert levels is so we can prepare our ground staff and our mutual aid, emergency medical folks, so that in the event that becomes something more significant, we're prepared to take care of it," said Blanton.

ADeltajet landed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base last year after suffering in-flight problems. Landings like these happen as a matter of course. In 1997, there were 127 alerts at RDU International which is a tiny fraction of the 241,000 takeoffs and landings. More often than not, these are precautionary measures taken by the captain.

"If he's just being precautionary, it is not uncommon for the caption to say, 'Hey, I've got a situation here.' Maybe it's wise that we have some of our trucks standing by," said Will Nelson, RDU Operations Manager.

The airport will stage a mock disaster drill in a couple of weeks. They do that every three years to keep emergency personnel, police and airport workers ready for real emergencies when they happen.