Sunday, September 23, 2001

Engine failure forces jet to return to CVG

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — A Delta Air Lines flight headed for Frankfurt, Germany, from here returned to make an emergency landing Saturday night, dumping fuel over parts of the Tristate after it lost power in its left engine.

        No one was hurt and Delta Flight 48, a Boeing 767-300 carrying 175 passengers and 12 crew, landed safely 15 minutes after taking off. Some witnesses said they saw its engine briefly aflame immediately after takeoff.

[photo] Viewed from the Public Landing along the Ohio River, a Delta jet leaves plumes of fuel in its wake.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        “The big planes come over really low, but this one, you could see the ball of flame,” said Paul Bass of Independence, who saw the plane from a golf course in nearby Florence.

        “The plane never gained altitude after that. The engine smoked the entire time.”

        Delta officials said the left engine had lost power, but they had not verified other details of the malfunction Saturday night.

        Incidents such as this are fairly common at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and other facilities nationwide. But, given the events of the past two weeks, witnesses didn't know whether they were seeing a malfunction or another attack.

        “There were a lot of people in the parking lot wondering if it was terrorists, especially when I found out later it was an international flight,” Mr. Bass said.

        Some of the passengers said they were not worried. Stefan Fischer, a 36-year-old auto engineer from Wolfsburg, Germany, said it was obviously not a terror attack.

        “There was a short bump five seconds into the flight and a shriek” from an engine, he said. “The captain immediately came on and made an announcement that he had trouble with the left engine.”

        The captain informed passengers that he was dumping fuel.

        “No one made a comment or a connection with the terror attacks. It was plainly evident that this was a technical problem and the crew was very calm about it,” Mr. Fischer said.

        The emergency landing, which requires firefighters to be on standby next to the runway, went off without incident, according to airport and Delta officials.

        The passengers were unloaded on the runway, and while Delta had another plane available to restart the flight, it could not find a fresh crew. Delta spokeswoman Genny Dervin said passengers who were stranded overnight were given accommodations by Delta and would be boarding the next scheduled departure for Frankfurt after 7 p.m. today.

        Several witnesses also reported seeing the plane dump its fuel, with others reporting they had smelled jet fuel vapors.

        John Friend of Springfield Township said he was outside playing with his dog about 7:30 p.m. when he noticed a plane flying unusually low and heading east. Usually planes fly a north-south pattern in his area of airspace, he said.

        “You know how you sometimes look in the air and if a plane is high enough you see a stream of smoke or steam? That's what it looked like this time, only this plane wasn't very high and it was dumping fuel out like mad,” he said.

        "You can smell jet fuel all around,” he said, likening it to the smell of kerosene.

        The plane departed at 7:21 p.m., and had its wheels safely back on the runway at 7:36.

        “This was nothing more than normal,” airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said.

        “If a meter or a light is out on any dashboard of any plane, they call for emergency procedures. It's just that with what has gone on, we're all a little jumpy.”

        Mr. Bushelman said three to four fire trucks normally respond to such a call, but could not say how many responded Saturday.


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