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If an Emergency Should Happen, RDU is Ready

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TWA mechanics examine a shredded wheel that survived Tuesday's landing at RDU
RALEIGH — Investigators are looking at the TWA plane that was forced to makean emergency landing Monday night. The pilot circled RDU Internationalfor more than an hour because he was concerned the landing gear would notcome down. Thankfully, the plane landed on wheels instead of thefuselage. But, had it not, rescue crews were ready to respond.

Raleigh Durham International Airport was under an alert #2 Monday night,which means a potentially dangerous situation was at hand. For rescue crews from Wake and Durham Counties, the scare turned out to be a routinedrill. But for people aboard the plane, their flight was anything butroutine.

Passengers continue to line up in front of the TWA counter at RDU. EvenTrisha Caupert who was on flight 550 Monday night is flying again despitethe ordeal. Caupert says it hasn't quite hit her yet. The whole thingseemed surreal.

The DC-9 made several close passes over the airport so ground crews couldcheck the landing gear with night vision goggles. Caupert recalls theplane flying by four times. By the time the plane had passed for thethird time, Caupert says the passengers were beginning to get anxious,wondering if the plane was going to land, or if they'd get instructions onwhat to do.

The landing was smooth. Minutes after the touchdown, the 75 people aboardwere reunited with loved ones. Wednesday, TWA maintenance crews took acloser look at the plane which apparently blew a tire when it left St.Louis.

RDU Spokesperson, Rick Martinez, estimates there are about 800 take-offsand landings everyday. So when something goes wrong, it is quiteunusual.

The airport was ready for the worst. About 85 rescue personnel fromseveral agencies blanketed the ground. Chief of Emergency Services, JimmyThompson, says that between the outside agencies, water crews, and supportthat came to the airport Tuesday night, RDU was very well prepared.

Passengers are just glad it's over. As Caupert boards her next TWAflight, she's looking forward to an "uneventful" ride. In the meantime,maintenance crews will continue to examine the plane carrying flight 550and submit a report to the FAA. The FAA will then decide when the planewill leave the ground again.

RDU fire officials say every time the alarm goes off, their hearts beat alittle harder, and they wonder if this time will be a tragedy. Luckily,that wasn't the case Tuesday night.

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