UNITED AIRLINES EMERGENCY LANDING IN PAGO PAGO

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January15, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)--A United Airlines jumbo jet traveling from Melbourne to Los Angeles made an emergency landing at Pago Pago International Airport Sunday after smoke was reported in the cockpit.

United Airlines flight number 848 with 300 passengers and 22 crew departed Melbourne at 11:50 a.m. Sunday (Melbourne time) and, after crossing the International Date Line, was scheduled to arrive Sunday in Los Angeles at 6:30 a.m., according to United Airlines media specialist Nat Triaca.

In a telephone interview from Chicago, Triaca said the flight was diverted to Pago Pago after the flight crew reported the cockpit smoke.

The flight arrived in Pago Pago to a waiting emergency crew.

Jason Pritchard of Samoa Air, the ground handler, said the aircraft landed without problems and passengers deplaned normally.

Triaca said another United B747 aircraft out of Honolulu was dispatched to pick up the stranded passengers for a planned Monday departure.

Mechanics aboard the aircraft from Honolulu were to conduct an inspection of the aircraft to determine the origin and significance of the cockpit smoke.

Due to limited accommodations in the territory some passengers were housed at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, just one mile from the airport, and others slept at the airport.

The flight crew and still other passengers were accommodated at the Rainmaker Hotel, the only major hotel on the island, and three small motels.

Pritchard said they contacted every motel on Tutuila seeking accommodations for the passengers.

A French woman with three teenage children said it was a frightening experience. "All I want now is to get to my final destination," she said, while her children were asleep nearby on the hard floor, using their carry-on bags as pillows.

Others were sitting around the airport reading books early Monday while other passengers had a chance to take a brief tour of the territory during their unexpected stopover.

This is the second time in the last six years that a United aircraft has made an emergency landing at Pago Pago International Airport.

Local authorities reported no problems with the passengers.

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