July 23, 2008

Northwest Jet’s Emergency Landing Causes 25-Minute Delay

By Thomas Gnau and John Nolan Staff Writers

DAYTON -- The Vectren Dayton Air Show offered its usual thrills Sunday, July 20 -- including one quite unexpected moment.

A Northwest Airlines jetliner bound from Florida to Michigan made an emergency landing on the show's second and final day at Dayton International Airport, temporarily suspending air show events taking place on another part of the airport property.

Northwest Airlines Flight 491 and its 182 passengers and six crew members landed safely at the Dayton airport, airline spokeswoman Leslie Parker said. One of the Boeing 757 jetliner's two engines was shut down in midair as a precaution because of a computer malfunction, Parker said.

The plane had been flying from Tampa, Fla., to Detroit when the pilot reported the problem and requested permission to land, said Iftikhar Ahmad, Dayton's director of aviation who oversees the city- owned airport.

Air traffic controllers halted the air show's performance flights for nearly 25 minutes as a precaution while the Northwest plane landed at the airport at about 12:25 p.m. Two fire trucks from the cityowned airport met the jetliner with lights flashing and escorted it off the runway, Ahmad said.

"Everybody's OK," Ahmad said.

Pratt & Whitney engines power the plane, he said.

An air show announcer informed the show's spectators of the emergency and the reason for briefly halting the show. He informed the crowd that the plane could be safely landed with just the one engine.

"All right, a piece of cake," the announcer said after the plane landed. "Everything is stable."

The spectators applauded.

Commercial airline operations traditionally continue at the airport during the annual air show, but on another section of the airport's property away from where the show takes place.

Beyond the emergency landing, the show had its normal complement of thrills, with spectators drawn as usual to big planes and fast planes.

The F-22 Raptor was fenced off, but still surrounded by photographers and the curious. 2nd Lt. Georganne Schultz, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the most common questions from show visitors concerned the extent of the Raptor's capabilities.

Schultz said the plane's engines had 35,000 pounds of thrust each, so much power that pilots can fly upwards vertically and then fall back without worry.

The Raptor can reach 60,000 feet in altitude, high enough so that pilots can look up and see the blackness of space and the curvature of the earth, Schultz said.

Paul Bird, a London, Ontario resident, could be found snapping photos of the Raptor.

"It's just the level of performance, just an incredible airplane," Bird said, when asked about his fascination with the F- 22. "It can just do things no other airplane can do."

The F-15A, which was not fenced off, was also a star attraction.

"It's the wildest roller coaster you've ever been on," said Capt. John Cox, who controls targeting and air-to-ground weapons on an F- 15.

"Yeah, that's why I want to fly on one," said Joe Whetzel, a Cleveland resident who quizzed Cox about the jet plane.

The C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force inventory, also drew crowds and stares, both on the ground and in the air.

"I get a lot of questions about how heavy you can be on takeoff," said Lt. Matt Judd, who spoke with visitors strolling through an open C-5 parked on the tarmac.

Answer: the maximum take-off weight during war is 840,000 pounds. The top take-off weight during peacetime is slightly less, 769,000 pounds.

At 247 feet in length, the plane is more than twice as long as the Wright Brothers' very first controlled flight of about 120 feet.

In general, big planes were one of the stars of this year's show. Asked why, Master Sgt. Tim Pawlaczyk, who work as an aeromedical technician, confessed that he was a fan of large planes himself.

"I still do," Pawlaczyk said. "I love planes enough to be in the Air Force."

Contact this report at (937) 225-2242 or [email protected]

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