Smoke Forces Airliner Emergency Landing in Tulsa

Monday, August 23rd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Sun Country jetliner made an emergency landing in Tulsa Sunday night because of a tripped circuit breaker in an electrical fan. That was the word from the carrier Monday after 135 passengers traveling from Dallas to Minneapolis on the scheduled flight made an unscheduled stop in Oklahoma.

Terry Wiley never thought his new home video camera would capture a real-life drama that started miles above the ground. "We had been in the air 45 minutes, maybe an hour," said Wiley. "The next thing I know we're taking a dive. "From whatever our crusing altitude was, we came down fast."

20 minutes outside of Dallas, the pilot reported smelling smoke and quickly called the Tulsa tower for an emergency landing. Passengers told the News on Six they noticed the smell before takeoff. They said it smelled something like burning insulation. They then told flight attendants who said "don't worry, it's nothing." "We started smelling smoke," said passenger Bobby Baker. "It smelled like something burning and it was coming out of the central air unit on the plane. I first thought it was something cooking in the back, but it got stronger," he said.

Apparently the smell got stronger as the plane took off and gained altitude. "Then the stewardess walked by and we asked her if there was something burning, a fire, and she said yes," noted passenger Mary Joe Buettner .

Tulsa firefighters found no flames and no smoke on the 17-year-old Boeing's 727. A heat sensor on a helicopter picked up only the three hot engines. Scores of frightened passengers climbed aboard waiting shuttle vans to take them to the terminal. Later, the airline announced a bad fuse in a fan that cools the overhead bins caused the smell.
A minor problem, yet a major inconvenience.

After passengers munched on a midnight pizza, the pilot spoke to them. "The airplane we were on may be fixed before the other one gets here, but just for everyone's peace of mind, we're going to ship you out on another airplane," the pilot told them. Tired, worn-out and delayed, the passengers piled into another plane and headed home.

Sun Country says it takes all passengers comments seriously and looks into any question of safety. All the passengers aboard last night's flight will get a free ticket for a future trip.