Jet Forced to Land at Regional Airport

The Gainesville Sun

June 28, 2003

The Chicago-bound jet detoured to Gainesville using one engine. More than 100 people bound for Chicago were detoured into Gainesville on Friday night when their plane made an emergency landing.

Passengers of Spirit Airlines Flight 1442, an MD-80, said they were told the right engine was shut down because of an oil leak and they would have to land at Gainesville Regional Airport at about 7 p.m.

"They just had an indicator light and had to make an emergency landing," said David Epstein of Chicago. "We were on the ground in 10 minutes."

Epstein said it wasn't a scary experience - until he saw the large plane landing at the small airport off NE 39th Avenue.

Andrea Leslie of South Miami Beach said it was a smooth landing and the airplane staff kept everyone calm.

"Personnel kept everything in order and said it was a minor problem," Leslie said. "Everyone was applauding when we got here."

Officials at the airport tower called Gainesville Fire Rescue about the incident, saying the pilot had declared an emergency because of a loss of oil pressure in one of the engines, said Michael Heeder, GFR spokesman. The plane landed without incident, but fire crews were requested to stay for a while because the plane's brakes were hot.

After the plane landed, people streamed out into the airport, making a flurry of calls telling friends and loved ones they would arrive late in Chicago.

Officials told passengers they would send a different plane from Orlando and that they would be delayed by about two hours, said Bogdan Grebowski, a Chicago resident.

Some of the passengers had never heard of Gainesville and weren't sure where they were. Most headed into the bar and lounge, while others went outside to smoke. Children ran around letting off steam.

The airplane carried 143 people and 25,000 gallons of fuel, Heeder said. GFR responded to the emergency landing. There were no injuries.

Lawyers Darren Blum, and Scott Silver of Fort Lauderdale make their way to the Gainesville Regional Airport terminal after their plane traveling from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago made an emergency landing Friday. Blum, who did his undergraduate work at the University of Florida and was Albert the Alligator from 1988 to '89, said, "I bleed orange and blue, but I didn't want to bleed on the runway."

Kathy Ciotola can be reached at (352) 338-3109 or

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