NASA aircraft in emergency landing
IT WAS ALL HANDS on deck at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) yesterday morning as emergency services responded to a distress call from an ailing United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aircraft.
The Lockheed Martin P-3B Orion Aircraft (N426NA) left the airport around 6:48 a.m. bound for São Tomé and Príncipe with 20 personnel on board after an overnight fuel stop in the island.
Just 40 miles into its journey, however, the aircraft’s pilot contacted the GAIA’S Air Traffic Control to report it had to shut down one of its four engines that had caught afire.
With full emergency protocols in effect and nearly 12 hours of fuel on board, the pilots began to dump fuel in a bid to lose weight and make it back to Barbados.
While the initial return time was scheduled for 7:15 a.m., the NASA aircraft’s return was drawn out for almost two hours more as it dumped the fuel at sea.
Meanwhile, emergency services could be seen rushing into position at the GAIA in anticipation of the 104-foot-long aircraft’s touchdown.
Barbados Fire Service officials told the DAILY NATION three crash tenders, three senior officers and seven fire officers responded to the distress signal.
At approximately 8:31 a.m. the aircraft approached the airport’s runway from the eastern end, safely touching down and parking at position 22.
A Ministry of International Transport statement reported the crew as being unscathed by the harrowing events, adding that despite the hours-long incident, the airport remained operational and was fully open.
A statement from the US Embassy said that the aircraft and all personnel on board were safe.
Additionally, the embassy thanked the Barbados Government and emergency personnel for their support.
NASA’S Airborne Laboratory Experimenter Handbook said the N426NA has been operating since 1991 and is used for research activities on Earth, and atmospheric and space sciences.
It operates out of Goddard Space Flight Centre’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. (AD)