Airliner makes emergency landing at Dover A.F. Base


DOVER — Eighty-seven passengers and six crewmen on a Boeing 737 got an unexpected layover at Dover Air Force Base Monday night when their plane was forced to make an emergency landing due to a mechanical problem.

“A United Airlines 737 Flight 1559 en route to Florida from New Jersey declared an in-flight emergency and landed at Dover Air Force Base the evening of April 16,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne. “All passengers and crew landed at the base safely.”

The flight originated out of Newark, New Jersey, and was bound for Palm Beach, Florida, which is routinely a two-hour, 50-minute trip.

However, this flight turned out to be far from routine. It turned out to be seven hours, 34 minutes late to its destination in the Sunshine State. It landed in Palm Beach at 3:21 a.m. on Tuesday.

The flight, scheduled to take off from Newark Liberty at 4:57 p.m. on Monday, didn’t take off until 6:36 p.m., according to United.

A few minutes into the flight pilots diverted the aircraft to Dover Air Force Base, where it touched down at 7:19 p.m. after experiencing a mechanical problem, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

ABC News reporter Jeffrey Cook wrote on his Twitter account that the United pilots told air traffic controllers at DAFB there was a problem with the plane’s elevator.

“The pilots of #UA1559 reported ‘trouble with the elevator’ to air traffic controllers before landing at Dover Air Force Base,” he tweeted. “Such a problem would lead to controllability challenges. Hence the diversion to the long runways at the Air Force Base.”

United Airlines said it would inspect the aircraft at DAFB and “work to get the passengers to Palm Beach as soon as possible,” but did not disclose the nature of the mechanical issue.

Passenger Zlata Faerman was on the flight with her family. She chronicled her experiences on her Instagram account, Zlata Thoughts.

She looked outside her window on the aircraft to firetrucks and other emergency vehicles.

“Had an emergency landing in Delaware somewhere, a military base,” she said. “No photos allowed once we get off the plane. Have to wait here for two hours and then get onto another plane,” she said.

It turned out to be longer than that.

The aircraft’s passengers were eventually taken to the USO Delaware Community Center in the passenger terminal at DAFB, where they were provided with pizza and snacks as well as a place to relax.

“Team Dover worked with United Airlines to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers and crew while at Dover AFB,” Staff Sgt. Jenne said. “All waited in the installation’s passenger terminal, which had access to facilities as well as water and snacks.”

At 12:31 a.m., Ms. Faerman posted one more photo of her family smiling on a plane with a caption “Let’s try this again.”

The passengers remained on the ground in Dover for nearly six hours until they finally boarded a replacement aircraft that took off just after 1 a.m.

United Airlines confirmed that their passengers finally reached their destination — albeit with an unexpected diversion to Dover.

“Our customers later departed on a different aircraft, arriving in Palm Beach early this (Tuesday) morning,” a statement by United said. “We apologize to our customers and have provided a goodwill gesture.”

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