JetBlue plane forced to make emergency landing
Long Beach, Calif. — A JetBlue airliner that experienced engine problems soon after takeoff returned to the Long Beach Airport on Thursday after smoke filled the cabin and passengers evacuated onto the runway using the plane's emergency slides.
None of the 142 passengers and five crew members was injured during the evacuation, though medical personnel tended to three passengers at the scene and one other was taken to a hospital for observation, airport spokeswoman Cassie Perez-Harmison said.
Flight 1416 was bound for Austin, Texas, when the crew declared an emergency after an "overheat warning" for one of its two engines, she said.
One of the passengers, Dean Delbaugh, said that about 10 minutes into the flight, he heard a pop, felt a weird vibration and then smelled an odd stench. Delbaugh was flying to Austin to visit in-laws with his new wife.
"Smoke came billowing out of the air vents and filled up the cabin in about 10 to 15 seconds," Delbaugh said by telephone from his home in Dana Point. "The fumes were ridiculous. I can still kind of taste them in my mouth."
Flight attendants manually deployed oxygen masks, which are designed to automatically drop only in the event of a loss of cabin pressure.
The pilot activated a fire-suppression system within the engine, but it was not immediately known whether there was a fire, JetBlue spokesman Anders Lindstrom said. Long Beach fire personnel told reporters they saw no sign of flames, though they did not look inside the engine.
As the plane landed, the pilot told passengers to brace themselves, Delbaugh said.
"As soon as I saw the runway, it was a sigh of relief," he said. "I didn't care if landing gear came down. We could slide down the runway as long we were on the ground."
According to the tracking website FlightAware, the Airbus A320 took off at 9:17 a.m. and landed at 9:30 a.m.
The airport's main runway was closed for about two hours due to the evacuation. Eventually the plane was towed away for further investigation, and air traffic resumed.
Long Beach is on the south Los Angeles County coast.