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Jet forced to land at Vienna



Published: Tue, September 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Youngstown Police Department bomb squad was called out as a precaution.

VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT

VIENNA -- A Continental Airlines flight bound from Newark, N.J., to Denver had to land at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, one of at least six flights forced from the sky before noon today.

Airport manager Tom Nolan stood in the main concourse and announced that shuttle service would be provided to local motels for all stranded passengers, and that the airport was trying to make other travel arrangements.

Nolan said baggage would have to stay on the aircraft for now.

The FBI, the Youngstown Bomb Squad and several local and state law enforcement officials were investigating a Continental plane traveling from Hawaii to Newark, N.J., for possible suspicious package, police said. Passengers on the flight were initially taken by bus to a local hotel and then returned to the airport for questioning, police added.

Nationwide call: The airport had been notified to accommodate unexpected flights this morning in response to a nationwide call for all planes to land after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City in an apparent terrorist attack.

An American Eagle jet en route from JFK Airport to the Cleveland Municipal Airport was one of the first flights diverted here, around 10:30 a.m. today.

A flight attendant on the plane said it was ordered to land at the Vienna Township facility with 28 people aboard, and the passengers were waiting for buses to transport them to Cleveland.

Three Mathews School District buses were at the airport.

Crowds afterward: Soon after, lines were 15 deep at the car rental counters. Other passengers were seen using every available phone and likely emptying the ATM machine of cash.

Gene and Joen Ferrari of Morristown, N.J., were on the Continental flight bound for Denver, which was supposed to leave Newark at 8:10 a.m., but got off the ground at 8:45 a.m., Ferrari said. Once airborne, the Ferraris saw fire and smoke coming off the top of the World Trade Center. The couple said they planned to attend their son's wedding Saturday in Vail, Colo.

The Continental pilot told passengers that there was a weather problem in Denver and they had to stop in Youngstown to top off fuel. When the flight landed, the pilot told passengers that a terrorist attack had occurred and the FAA had ordered all commercial flights to land.

Ferrari said that the pilot's first announcement prevented panic and that he would have done the same thing.

'No joke': Stephen Kendall, a passenger on a TWA flight from Boston to St. Louis, said the pilot on that flight announced that never in 17 years had he been told to get out of the air immediately, and said "This is no joke."

At first they thought the flight would land in Cleveland, then it landed in Youngstown, Kendall said.

Kendall noted that the man behind him in line at Boston airport changed his mind and decided to get on an earlier, 7:30 a.m. flight out of Boston, which is reportedly the flight that was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center.




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