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Allegiant aircraft diverts to Fort Wayne for unplanned landing

Passengers safely in terminal building

Friday, December 28, 2012 - 4:03 pm

An Allegiant aircraft on its way from South Bend to Florida landed at Fort Wayne International Airport after an indicator light showed there was a fire in its cargo hold.

But Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, said it landed safely early Friday afternoon. Allegiant flight 959 landed in Fort Wayne at about 1:24 p.m., the airline said in a statement. As of 2:15 p.m., its passengers were in the terminal building.

“There were no real injuries and nothing to worry about,” Hinderman said. "The evacuation of the aircraft to get people in a safe environment was very quick."

Hinderman said a few people were treated for minor bumps and bruises after sliding down emergency slides.

He said the plane was still on the taxiway shortly after it landed at around 1:30 p.m. The plane had been headed for Punta Gorda, Fla., he said. He did not know Friday afternoon what Allegiant would do with the aircraft.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Allegiant said flight 959 was carrying 149 passengers and five crew members. The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jet, has a capacity of about 150 passengers, Hinderman said.

After passengers evacuated the plane by sliding down the inflatable chutes, they were at first taken to the Atlantic Aviation support building just west of the airport terminal. They were later moved to the terminal, where many waited in the coffee shop or lobby area for a replacement aircraft to be sent.

One passenger, Jim Baier, of Fort Myers, Fla., said the experience was "probably harrowing for some people," but he didn't believe there was an actual fire.

"I really didn't think there was fire because the fire trucks weren't trying that hard to get there fast, so they seemed confident there was no fire," Baier said, adding that he never smelled smoke.

Baier said passengers learned that there would be an emergency landing about 45 minutes into the flight.

Hinderman said investigators were still trying to determine Friday afternoon if a fire had actually started. But the plane was not visibly burning, and firefighters did not spray any water at the aircraft, he said.

Bob Caylor of The News-Sentinel contributed to this story.