KLAMATH FALLS — Not one, but two 737 Alaska Airlines passenger jets landed at the Crater Lake-Klamath Falls Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon.
The first made an emergency landing at 3:30 p.m. It was a scheduled flight from Orange County, Calif., to Seattle, but had to divert due to an apparent fuel leak in one of the engines, according to airport authorities.
The second flight arrived from Seattle about 6 p.m. to pick up the 160 passengers and crew who were stranded at the airport for about three hours. About eight passengers rented cars in Klamath Falls to drive on to their final destinations.
"We had our emergency equipment meet the flight as the plane came in," Bill Hancock, airport operations manager said. "That's standard procedure. The jet had to sit on the runway a bit so we could check it out before the passengers were allowed to deplane."
The crew and airport officials teamed up to offer food and beverages as the passengers filled the airport waiting lounge. Many were on holiday, and a few were international travelers. Alaska Airlines officials from Medford drove to Klamath Falls to help with the transition between planes and crews.
"Everything was handled very professionally," remarked Heather Berkley, who was flying to Seattle. "I received several text messages updating me about what was going on from the airlines." She and Publisher Heidi Wright handed out free Sunday newspapers to the passengers as they waited for the second plane.
Linda Tepper, airport business manager, also pitched in to help feed and make passengers comfortable during the layover.
Mike Robinson, his wife and two daughters — all of Silverdale — were heading home from a vacation at Disneyland.
"It wasn't a bad delay at all," he said. "The crew told us what was going on all the time. It went pretty well. My girls made friends with other passengers' girls while we waited."
Elizabeth Larsen and her daughter, Carly, were heading home to Spokane. They took the delay in stride, as well.
"Carly had texted my mom that we 'crash landed' in Oregon," Larsen laughed. "I had to call my mom right a way and correct that!" She noted, too, that despite the quick descent into Klamath Falls, the crew kept everyone calm. "I had a few seconds of panic. But after that it was just a normal landing."
The abandoned jet will be inspected by Alaska staff before it will fly on to Seattle for maintenance, officials said.
The fact that the airport does not have commercial airline service since SkyWest/United pulled out in June, was not lost on Alaska Airlines workers. One noted that Klamath Falls treats Alaska staff very well when an emergency such as this happens.