Forty-two passengers and two crew-members are safe after their plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Columbia Regional Airport around 10:45 a.m. Sunday, according to airline officials.
United Express flight 5452, operated by the Appleton, Wisc.-based company Air Wisconsin, was en route to Washington-Dulles International Airport from Kansas City International Airport. While airport officials originally cited a failure in the plane's left engine, Air Wisconsin spokes-woman Kelly Lanpheer said the problem was actually in the warning light for the engine.
The pilot shut off the engine as a safety precaution and landed in Columbia. No injuries were reported.
Shortly after landing, airport safety personnel checked the plane's landing gear and brakes on the runway before allowing it to taxi to the gate, acting in accordance with standard procedure in an emergency landing.
“It was pretty scary, but isn't it great that I don't have to go to work tomorrow?” said Jessica Taylor of Charlottesville, Va.
Firefighters from the Columbia Fire Department and Boone County and Southern Boone County fire protection districts responded to the incident, as did officers from the Columbia police department and Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The United Express Bombardier CL-65 jet, also known as the Canadair Regional Jet, seats 50 people with a crew of three. According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the aircraft is 4 years old.
MU student Chris Stokes said that he drove to Kansas City on Saturday night to catch his Sunday morning flight, only to return to Columbia instead of landing in Washington.
“I don't like flying, so I was freaked out at first,” he said. “People in front of me were praying.”
Stokes also noted that the landing was smooth and uneventful.
Jon Taulbee of Kansas City recalled a 1998 flight he was on that crashed in a field near Chicago's O'Hare airport.
“I thought, here we go again,” he said.
United dispatched a second plane Sunday afternoon to get passengers on their way to Washington. Many passengers opted to wait for the plane, but some, such as Autumn Sorrow and her family from Rock Hill, S.C., decided to drive to their destinations. Sorrow and her family had been in Vail, Colo., on a ski trip. While driving to Denver on Saturday afternoon to catch their flight to Kansas City, the family had to drive around an avalanche. When they finally made it to the airport in Denver, their flight was delayed because of weather, and they had to stay in a hotel overnight.
“We have no idea where our seven bags of luggage are at,” Sorrow said.
Then on Sunday, the family's flight had to make the emergency landing in Columbia. Sorrow recalled the flight as very bumpy from the beginning, but she said the flight attendants were very nice, helpful and professional. Still, she de-scribed the flight as “very scary.”
So she and her family decided to rent a car and make the 16- to 20-hour drive back to South Carolina.
“We would rather drive so that we can be in control of the situation,” she said.
Missourian reporter Chris Detrick contributed to this report.