Nov 29, 2010 6:35 PM by Melissa Anderson (Helena)
Passengers on board a flight from Helena to Denver had a scare on Monday morning when the plane they were flying in reportedly lost use of an engine.
United Airlines flight 6870 left the Helena airport around 7:30 a.m., but shortly after the plane took off, it reported trouble.
The plane circled Helena twice before the pilot decided to head to Great Falls to make an emergency-type landing. The plane landed safely at the Great Falls International Airport without incident.
Helena airport manager Ron Mercer says the Helena runway tested good for braking action, but the call to fly to another airport was due to safety precautions.
Mercer explained, "But the pilot, because he was having engine problems, opted to go to Great Falls because they were reporting good braking action, just as a safety precaution. You know if you landed and the runway was slick you only have one engine for reversing it could put you off the centerline. So, the pilot has the option to do what he feels is necessary. So he went to Great Falls and made a landing in Great Falls.
The runway in Great Falls is 1,500 feet longer than Helena's.
Mercer says he's unsure exactly what type of problems the plane was having.
He said his maintenance crew was out at 3:00 this morning plowing the runway in Helena; he noted that there have been no other problems with any other flights.
The 44 passengers aboard the flight either had to catch another flight from Great Falls, or board a bus back to Helena. The passengers arrived back at the Helena airport by bus around noon.
With luggage in hand they went back to the airport and stood in line again to see if they could catch another flight out.
Some passengers decided to stay and try again tomorrow, while others were anxious to get back home or on their way to their final destinations.
Passenger Nicole Hedstrom said, "They thought it was the pressure, something wrong with the pressure, and they said that the left motor went out while we were flying, basically."
"We felt absolutely nothing," said Kathleen McGrorty. "There was no scare whatsoever, the crew was wonderful."
Liz Bangerter said while standing in line, "Well, they're telling us that all the flights are booked so it might be tomorrow which is not so good when you only have a day and a half conference."
For some passengers, it was an extended Thanksgiving holiday and they were happy to spend one more day at home with family and friends.
United Airlines said it would try an accommodate passengers who were on that flight to the best of their ability to find another flight home or put them up for the night.