SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - An Allegiant Air flight headed for Orlando took off from Springfield - Branson National Airport on Monday morning but didn't get far. The MD-80 twin engine jet circled back and landed after one of its engines failed shortly after takeoff.
"We took off. We heard a bang, and the plane dropped a little bit," said passenger Jeff Birdsong, "and then i thought it was turbulence, honestly."
"I was really thankful. I was feeling really nervous. I didn't know what was going to happen," said passenger Elli Lurvey, "if we were going to make it to the ground."
Another passenger, Koren Dietrich, said she heard a big bang or bump sound and felt the jet seem to drop in the air.
"It dropped a little bit, and then they another engine sounded like it was more strong, and then we lifted," Dietrich said.
Some people thought the bump was the landing gear folding back up but Dietrich says it didn't sound like anything she had ever heard on a flight. She said the pilot then made an announcement about the engine failure.
Dietrich praised the pilot and crew for the way they handled the emergency. She said passengers were praying for safety and everyone clapped after the plane landed safely. Dietrich said she and her family, including a 15-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, were on their way to Florida for a vacation.
Witnesses say they saw the plane hovering frighteningly close to the ground.
Allegiant said it bought lunch for the passengers and sent another jet to Springfield to take passengers on their flight early Monday evening.
A reporter sent questions by email to Allegiant Air’s Media Relations office. Here are the answers that were sent back by email by Krysta Levy.
Questions: Why were the pilots not able to climb higher than 500 feet off the ground? Did the hot, humid weather have an effect? Does the low flying pattern indicate they were able to maintain altitude but unable to climb? We had multiple eyewitnesses who saw the plane very close to the ground.
Answers: Flight 679 with scheduled service from Springfield - Branson National Airport (SGF) to Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) departed from Springfield at approximately 10:20 a.m. local time on Monday, July 3. Shortly after departure a mechanical issue arose, and out of an abundance of caution the captain directed a return to field in Springfield. The aircraft landed safely at 10:49 a.m. local time and taxied to the gate, where passengers deplaned per normal procedures.
Q. How many passengers were on board? What happens to them? They thought they would leave on a different aircraft today. Is it tomorrow though? What time? Any other accommodations for their troubles?
A. There were 147 passengers and six crew members on board.
A replacement aircraft has been dispatched to carry the passengers on to SFB, estimated for a 5:00 p.m. departure. We sincerely apologize to our passengers for this unanticipated disruption to their travel plans. Passengers have been given the option to be re-accommodated on another Allegiant flight at no charge. All passengers have been issued $100 vouchers toward future travel on Allegiant, and will be provided lunch during the delay. Again, we truly apologize for the delay to our passengers, and will have them to their destination as soon as possible.
Q. We received word of an Allegiant Air flight from Springfield to Destin, Fla., on Sunday being delayed 10 hours. Can you confirm those passengers' accounts and provide a reason for that delay.
A. As far as the delay yesterday, the aircraft required a tire change once it landed at SGF, so a spare tire was flown in from our Cincinnati base of operations.
Editor's note: Allegiant doesn't have mechanics stationed in Springfield, or most of the airports where it flies, so, if a tire needs to be changed or a mechanical problem has to be fixed, it has to fly a mechanic and parts to the airport where the jet is waiting.