International Delta Flight Diverts to Cold Bay

Wednesday, October 30 2013

A Delta flight traveling from Tokyo to San Francisco made an emergency stop in the remote community of Cold Bay Wednesday morning.

The Boeing 767 jet started to experience engine problems this morning, according to Delta spokesman Michael Thomas. Pilots were able to safely land the plane at Cold Bay’s all-weather airport.

Catherine Bland works at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Cold Bay. She says that she heard a loud jet engine around 6 a.m, followed by a flurry of activity on the runway.

"I thought, ‘What’s going on out there?’ And I looked and I see the Delta plane sitting on the tarmac," Bland says. "Then when I came into work, we started getting requests for help."

Izembek has released one employee to help with security and transportation throughout the day, according to deputy refuge manager Leticia Melendez. 

She says the goal is to put passengers at ease.

"Our role is to do as much as we can to minimize their discomfort," Melendez says. "We're helping with security and trying to take the edge off what could have been a big disaster. And everything seems to be going in the right direction."

Right now, airport staff are making arrangements for the replacement jet and Transportation Security Administration team that Delta’s sending out. The TSA staff will screen passengers and get them re-boarded on the new plane when it arrives after 12 p.m. Alaska time.

Until then, Delta has allowed the 178 passengers and crew that are stuck in Cold Bay to get off the plane and stretch their legs.

The airport is only a five or ten-minute walk from the refuge, but the passengers won’t be allowed to stray that far.

"Let me tell you, the little kid in me got excited and thought, 'Oh! They get to see the refuge!'" Melendez says. "But that's just a little reaction because I get excited about these things, just as much as anybody who has a passion for exposing the wonders of nature."

Mary Martin, the owner and operator of the Cold Bay Lodge, says the view from town isn’t as thrilling -- just a few houses and a school.

Martin says the stranded travelers have already seen the most exciting thing in the village.

"We have an interesting airport," Martin says. "We go from 60 [people] to quadruple our population in a minute's notice, depending on what's on board."

Once the passengers leave town, a few Delta employees will stick around Cold Bay to fix the disabled jet. Martin says Delta has reserved space at her 38-bed hotel to house its maintenance and cockpit crews.

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