PASCO, WA - There were tense moments and angry passengers today, after a Skywest flight took off 3 hours late and then had to turn around just minutes into the flight because of a mechanical problem.
Flight 4475 was supposed to take off for Minneapolis at 6:42 this morning, but the icy conditions delayed the takeoff until 11:04. Then, about 15 minutes into the flight, the pilots got a sensor warning that the nose landing gear was malfunctioning.
The plane with 70 people on board turned around and started to return to the airport.
The pilots then decided to circle the airport, to burn off fuel and lose some weight before they landed. The plane made multiple circles just northeast of the airport, which took about an hour and a half. Finally, the plane landed safely at 12:38 this afternoon.
"I was watching it and it went up to about 5,000 feet and immediately turned around and came back," said Ken Miller, who had four family members on the plane. "And now I see them circling, they're circling around Pasco which is never a good sign. I've seen too many air disaster shows."
At 12:37, the worry turned to relief, with Flight 4475's passengers and crew safe and on the ground...an anti-climactic landing to make up for the worry those passengers had in the air and family members like Miller had on the ground.
"I'm a worrier, so you never know what could happen," he said. "Anything can happen, you know?"
Speaking of worried, the plane full of passengers - including Miller's son-in-law Reid Schmidt - could feel something was wrong, they just didn't exactly know what was wrong.
"We started climbing and descending pretty quick, and accelerating and slowing down, and I knew something was wrong," Schmidt said. "Then finally, thirty, forty-five minutes into the flight, it could've been longer, they finally got over the radio, telling us the landing gear was locked down. It was locked, and it was because of the ice."
The frustration from passengers of being grounded on the tarmac for three hours for other reasons even before takeoff shifted into some confusion and worry as the plane began to circle Pasco.
"People were starting to get worried because we would quickly fly up, and we're just like, 'what's going on?' So it's just a little sketchy."
PASCO, WA (AP) - Officials say a SkyWest flight headed to Minneapolis unexpectedly returned to the Tri-Cities Airport for an emergency landing.
Tri-Cities Airport director Buck Taft says the plane landed safely at the airport in Pasco Friday afternoon and was able to taxi to the terminal. Emergency crews were standing by. No one was hurt.
SkyWest Airlines spokeswoman Marissa Snow said in an emailed statement that Skywest flight 4475, operating as Delta Connection, returned due to a mechanical indication.
Taft says he believes the landing gear steering indicator light came on. He says the plane landed around 12:30 p.m., roughly 1 ½ hours after departing the airport.
Snow said all passengers left the plane and the airline was working to help them resume their travels.