Mechanical problem prompts emergency landing in Yakima

YAKIMA, Wash. -- It was a long night for Alaska Airlines passengers who made an unexpected stop in Yakima. The plane made an emergency landing after a piece of landing equipment broke.

Almost a hundred passengers were on board the flight headed from Las Vegas to Portland. There was heavy fog in Portland. That's normally not a problem. But, the equipment that pilots rely on to land in those conditions broke during the flight. That brought the plane here to Yakima after midnight.

"Oh my gosh, it's like the best thing ever. It's been almost 12 hours now, that's pretty bad."

That reaction from one of the 93 passengers who ended up spending the night in Yakima. It's not what passengers wanted or expected.
And, it meant the Yakima Airport had to be ready for an emergency landing.

"That's our highest priority as an airport operator to ensure that the runway's available," said Rob Peterson, Airport Manager. "The taxiway is available for all aircraft and equipment that need to land here for any type of diversions or any type of emergency, during emergency response or any type of emergency divert."

The original plan was to have a mechanic from Pasco fix the plane's equipment problem. However, Alaska Airlines flew in a second plane when it became clear that would take too long.

Airport managers say this is the first emergency landing in Yakima caused by an equipment malfunction since the winter of 2011. KIMA was there when passengers on a Frontier Airlines flight were delayed for hours before taking off again.

Flights diverted to Yakima because of weather are more common.

"We see traditionally 300 days of sunshine, so we're actually an alternate airport for a lot of airlines that might get fogged in or low visibility in Seattle and Portland," said Peterson.

Alaska brought in more staff to take care of the passengers who spent the night in the terminal. One TSA employee said that's the second time he's seen that happen in his long career.

Despite what was probably an uncomfortable night for the passengers, there were no more problems once the new plane flew in this morning. The flight took off around 10 am, and made it to Portland before 10:30.