MUSCLE SHOALS – The Shoals’ new regional airline, Silver Airways, makes a potentially disastrous mistake at the wrong West Virginia airport. According to wire reports, the pilot of Silver Airlines flight to Bridgeport, W.Va., mistakenly put his plane and passengers down on a 3,194 foot long strip, 5 miles from his intended airport. Silver, which is scheduled to begin flight operations at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport this October, is an offshoot of Colgan Air. On February 12, 2009, one of its aircraft crashed near Buffalo, NY. All 49 passengers and crew aboard the Bombardier Q400 aircraft were killed. The crash was determined to be caused by pilot error.
In this instance at the tiny airport at Fairmont, W. Va., the aircraft, which has a published minimum runway length for landing of 3450 feet, touched down without incident or injuries to the passengers. Fairmont is 5 miles from Bridgeport. The landing occurred at night.
“Obviously, it was a mistake,” said Jake Wilburn, manager of the Fairmont Municipal Airport-Frankman Field. The No. 5 runway at Fairmont is just under 3,200 feet long and 75 feet wide. According to Silver’s website, its Saab aircraft have a wingspan of about 70 feet wide and carry 34 passengers. The landing occurred late Tuesday night during Silver’s first week of service to the Bridgeport airport. “It was a normal landing, if you can say landing a Saab 340 here is normal,” Wilburn said. “He got it in, no problem.”
Passengers were taken by taxi to Bridgeport.
Silver Airways said 11 passengers and three crew members were on board at the time of what the company called a diversion.
“Safety is our top priority, and we have launched an internal review to determine what led to the flight diversion,” said David Querio, chief operating officer. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience to passengers aboard flight 4049 last evening.
Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Director, Barry Griffith, told The Quad-Cities Daily that he has no concerns about Silver Airways, “These things occur very rarely. It is a testament to the pilots skill level that the landed safely on a 3,200’ runway versus the intended 7,000’ runway in North Central West Virginia. We do not have any concerns regarding the new airline service at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport anticipated to start October 1, 2012. ”
Updated 8/9/2012 11:52am