Saturday, February 28, 2009

Emergency plane landing in Romania; all 51 safe

By DRAGOS BOTA
Associated Press Writer

A Romanian plane carrying 51 people made a safe emergency landing in western Romania on Saturday and all the occupants escaped injury, officials said.

The Carpatair flight's front landing gear became stuck and the plane circled Timisoara International Airport for almost two hours, using up its fuel to avoid a potential fire before it landed on a 200-yard (200-meter) long bed of foam laid out by firefighters, officials said.

At least 10 ambulances and three fire engines were waiting for the stricken plane, the emergency department said.

Dan Andrei, the airline's vice president, said, "the plane came down on the side wheels; it braked sharply and at a low speed it came on its front belly, while the front landing gear remained stuck."

The company said the two Moldovan pilots - Iurie Oleacov, 37, and Leonid Babischi, 47 -were highly experienced.

The Saab 2000 aircraft was carrying 47 passengers and four crew members on its flight from the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, to Timisoara, airport spokeswoman Carmen Stoica said. Romanian border police, who deal with international customs, said the plane was carrying 11, Romanians, 23 Moldovans, nine Italians, two Greeks and two Germans. The crew is Moldovan.

Timisoara ambulance chief Iancu Leonida said no one was hurt, but people were very frightened.

"There are no injured people, although some might have minor scratches, but they are very scared and traumatized," he said. "They are being given medical care."

Realitatea TV broadcast footage of passengers hugging and kissing people who had come to meet them at the airport. One unidentified female passenger with gray hair and tears in her eyes told the TV the passengers did not know about the landing gear and had thought there was a problem with ice and fog.

The airport was closed for 2 1/2 hours Saturday morning after the incident.

A Romanian Transportation Ministry team arrived in Timisoara to investigate the incident.

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