Local News

If an Emergency Should Happen, RDU is Ready

Posted July 22, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Investigators are looking at the TWA plane that was forced to make an emergency landing Monday night. The pilot circled RDU International for more than an hour because he was concerned the landing gear would not come down. Thankfully, the plane landed on wheels instead of the fuselage. 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 routine drill. But for people aboard the plane, their flight was anything but routine.

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

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

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

RDU Spokesperson, Rick Martinez, estimates there are about 800 take-offs and landings everyday. So when something goes wrong, it is quite unusual.

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

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

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