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Passengers in emergency landing leave Cold Bay airport

Posted: October 31, 2013 - 7:26am
This Oct. 30, 2013, photo provided by the State of Alaska Central Region Department of Transportation & Public Facilities shows a Delta Airlines plane on a runway in Cold Bay, Alaska. A Delta Airlines flight made an emergency landing in a remote Alaska community near the Aleutian Islands Wednesday morning after a warning message flashed on an engine control panel. (AP Photo/State of Alaska Central Region Department, Jeff Doerning)  Jeff Doerning
Jeff Doerning
This Oct. 30, 2013, photo provided by the State of Alaska Central Region Department of Transportation & Public Facilities shows a Delta Airlines plane on a runway in Cold Bay, Alaska. A Delta Airlines flight made an emergency landing in a remote Alaska community near the Aleutian Islands Wednesday morning after a warning message flashed on an engine control panel. (AP Photo/State of Alaska Central Region Department, Jeff Doerning)

ANCHORAGE — A San Francisco-bound Delta Air Lines plane departed from a remote Alaska community near the Aleutian Islands Wednesday afternoon, 10 hours after its passengers’ original jet made an emergency landing there.

Delta sent the replacement plane to Cold Bay after a Boeing 767 landed safely at about 6 a.m. Wednesday with 167 passengers and 11 crew members on board.

The unscheduled landing came after crew members received an engine warning message in the cockpit, Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said.

“Because of that warning indication, out of an abundance of caution and safety they elected to divert to Cold Bay,” he said. “But at no point was the engine shut down in flight.”

No injuries were reported aboard the plane that had departed from Tokyo.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the Delta crew declared an emergency and headed to Cold Bay, a treeless, wind-swept community of about 60 people. Delta then sent maintenance crews and the replacement plane to the town 625 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The replacement plane departed from Cold Bay shortly before 4 p.m., according to Jill Reese, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

While the passengers waited to depart, they were initially required to stay on the plane other than a few who were allowed to get out and stretch their legs, said Mary Martin, owner of the Cold Bay Lodge, where crew members who might remain overnight could stay. The airport has no customs or Transportation Security Administration presence to handle an international flight, Martin said.

TSA and customs representatives flew to Cold Bay to process the passengers, Reese said.

Passengers got off the plane early Wednesday afternoon and were taken to a few locations, including the community center, to wait for the arrival of the replacement aircraft, said Dawn Lyons, the city clerk and administrator.

Cold Bay — on the Alaska Peninsula 40 miles from the start of the Aleutian Islands — was built up as a key World War II staging area and once had a military population of 30,000. The state continues to maintain its 10,000-foot runway, Alaska’s third largest.

It’s not the first time a passenger jet has made an emergency landing at the remote location.

A Delta flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo with 220 passengers made an emergency landing at the community in March 2001.

Until Wednesday, the 2001 incident was the last time an emergency landing involved passengers, according to Martin. Despite Cold Bay’s tiny population, however, the airport is a regularly active place where cargo aircraft occasionally make quick emergency landings, or smaller planes stop to refuel or obtain supplies.

“They have high, high traffic all the time,” Martin said. “Twenty-four hours a day, we have aircraft coming and going to different places of the world.”

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