Damaged cargo plane causes chaos at Belfast International airport
Passengers at Belfast International Airport were stranded for more than 12 hours yesterday after a damaged cargo plane came to a halt on the runway at the worst place possible - causing havoc to flight schedules.
The freight aircraft for the courier firm TNT landed around 6am yesterday, awkwardly coming to a standstill at a junction of the airport's two runways and causing a temporary shutdown of all flights.
Alan Whiteside, operations director for Belfast International, called it the "absolute worst place for it to stop."
At first it was believed the plane's wheels had burst on landing, but airport officials later said engineers understood that part of the undercarriage had been damaged and was visibly twisted when inspected.
By 9am, air traffic controllers were moving arrivals and departures around the obstruction, but hundreds of passengers faced a long journey home. In total 10 flights were cancelled - five inbound flights and the subsequent outbound journeys.
Air accident investigators, who had to give permission to move the plane, were expected by 12pm, but they did not arrive until around 3pm, seven hours after the incident. The broken down plane was removed yesterday evening.
Sam McLean (73) was due to fly around the world to Tasmania yesterday morning, but instead faced a nightmare delay at the airport.
"I had a connecting flight from Glasgow to Tasmania at 2.15pm - I'm never going to make that," he said.
"I asked for a transfer flight, but I would have had to pay and I can't afford it. My flight now leaves at 5.45pm, so I've got to arrange to change my ticket from Glasgow to Tasmania. You would think they would have had some sort of standby."
Sean Anderson (21), from Birmingham, a veterinary student at the University of Bristol, was visiting his sick grandmother in Northern Ireland.
His 8.35am morning flight was delayed for 13 hours forcing him to miss a day of class. His compensation for the day from easyJet was £6. "I got up early for an 8.35am flight, got here and heard loads of flights have been cancelled, including the Bristol flight," Mr Anderson explained.
"They brought us down and there was a massive queue of 200 people at customer services. It wasn't till 8.40am that we got a text to say it was cancelled from easyJet."
He added he had no choice but to study at the airport."I can't miss much more of uni as I've had to miss lectures today and need to get back tomorrow," Mr Anderson said. "I won't be home until about 11pm tonight, which is bad."
Violet Slater (64) from Perthshire in Scotland was in Northern Ireland for the funeral of her sister.
"I didn't enjoy joining the queue as I stood for two hours," she said.
"But I've no complaints as there was an accident on the runway. No one was hurt and nobody died."
"I'm a wee bit fed up of listening to other people having big gripes about very little. I was over sadly for the death of my sister and her funeral, so maybe that makes you a bit more tolerant of little things that are outside people's control."
Margaret McCrory (60), from Dungannon, was one of the few passengers glad of the delay. "This morning I got in and parked the car and realised I'd brought no keys, so I'm so glad the flight is delayed because my daughter is now driving up the road with them," she said.
Speaking yesterday morning, Alan Whiteside said airport staff were working to help delayed passengers.
"All we can do at the moment is keep in touch with the airline, who will let them know what aircraft are going to be operating when and what availability there is for transferring people on to different flights," he added.