News Article - June 28, 2009

  Officials with Allegiant Air say one of their flights had to make a unplanned return trip to the Lehigh Valley International Airport Saturday night. Flight 746, with 154 people on board, took off from LVIA at 7:55 p.m., according to officials. Upon take-off, flames were seen coming out of the number one or left-side engine, with an audible bang being heard as the plane climbed into the air. The plane evenutally turned around, making a safe landing on the tarmac at approximately 8:29 p.m. LVIA says the flight, originally headed to Orlando, Florida has now been rescheduled for an 8:20 p.m. departure on Sunday. WFMZ's Jackie Shutack reports. Allegiant Air officials say a piece of tread came off one of the tires and hit the compressor, stopping it. Allegiant says when that happens the pilot must stop the engine, under safety procedure. Passengers from the flight tell 69 News the captain was very reassuring during the incident.

   An Alert 2 Condition was issued not long after 8:00 p.m. at LVIA, which means a plane has indicated it may be or is experiencing a problem in the air. according to airport officials. The FAA says the plane in question is an MD-82 model, and while the takeoff was problematic the de-boarding was normal. No one was injured during the ordeal. Allegiant Air tells 69 News the passenger list included 145 passengers, four "lap" children, and five total crew members, bringing it to a grand total of 154 people on board.

   Some of the passengers were crying as they got off the plane, while others were just happy to be on the ground. Many say they felt a bump, heard some smoke - and so began the trip back to LVIA. Passengers say that after the engine fire, the pilot calmly told them they would be heading back to the airport. Allegiant Air Flight 746 was supposed to touch down more than a thousand miles away, at the Orlando-Sanford Airport, in Florida. People in the terminal who spied the auspicious takeoff were not the only ones to do so.

   A Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton County man attending tonight's Lehigh Valley IronPigs game at nearby Coca-Cola Park tells 69 News he saw the plane emit flame and a banging noise at least twice as it took off. One fan said it was "the talk of the ballpark," at one point during the evening. Maintenance crews from Allegiant Air were dispatched not long after the incident, according to airline officials. They will look over the plane and decide the next course of action for it and its engine. A different plane will be used for tomorrrow's rescheduled flight to Orlando. Allegiant says it will board passengers in a hotel for the night. Departure is set for Sunday at 8:20 p.m. from LVIA.

Source - WFMZ-TV