Calm pilots guide passengers to safety in emergency situations

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Recent events in mid-air may have some potential flyers concerned about flight safety, however calm, well-trained pilots routinely help guide their passengers through emergency situations.

Be it something as serious as landing on the Hudson River or dealing with the death of a fellow pilot while in the middle of the flight, to a smaller situation like a smoking fire in a trash receptacle that grounded a flight leaving New Jersey in Buffalo Monday — calm pilots routinely ensure the safety of their passengers.

After two Alaska Airlines pilots took off from New Jersey Monday, they reached cruising altitude and soon after learned of an emergency situation requiring an emergency diversion. They diverted to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport after calling ground control, sparking dispatch to clear the airport’s runways.

“We have an emergency aircraft inbound, so what I’m going to need you to do is clear all runways and maintain radio silence,” a dispatcher said in response to the emergency call.

As the flight approached, pilots of Alaska Airlines flight 17 stayed in regular communication with ground control.

“Alaska 17 checking in, down to 4,000,” the pilot said. “Can you give us a heading, anything like that?”

Ground control followed protocol, bringing firefighters, ambulances and first responders to the scene in preparation for their landing.

“Maintain 4,000, let me know what runway you would like and when able, fuel and number of souls on board,” ground control said.

The pilot reported back that he had 189 people on-board, including six crew members and two infants. They soon after made it clear they were landing as a precaution.

“Just to let you know, the fire is out at this time. We’re still going to plan to stop it on the runway,” the pilot reported. “We had a sales device that kind of exploded, caught on fire. The fire has been put out. It was in the aft gallery at the time.”

Pilots and crew contained the fire while in the air and guided their passengers to safety despite the danger on-board, much like the miracle on the Hudson and the pilot who diverted his plane to Syracuse when his lead pilot died. 

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