- A screen capture of the plane that made an emergency landing at Dulles airport Feb. 28, 2011. (Image: NewsChopper 7)
A Continental Airlines flight made an emergency landing at Dulles International Airport after a bird was sucked into one of its engines.
Continental flight 1559 had just taken off from Reagan National Airport en route to Houston and was heading south over the Potomac River when cadets waiting for class to start at the nearby D.C. fire training academy heard something go wrong.
"We heard a loud boom, looked up, saw the fire coming out of one of the engines on the aircraft," said Robert Small, one of the cadets.
Fearing the worst, fire academy instructors called dispatch to warn them of a possible plane crash and to send units.
Firefighter: Be advised we have a possible plane crash going southbound on 295.
Dispatcher: OK, you said possible plane crash on 295?
Firefighter: Affirmative. (Inaudible) We'll keep you advised.
According to Gene Ryan, there were "probably about 5 or 6 large balls of red flames coming out of the left engine and every time there was an explosion, the plane would tilt to the right."
On board, the flight crew remained calm, according to audio recordings of radio communications with Reagan National Airport air traffic controllers:
Pilot: We just hit some birds. We're losing our left engine.Air Traffic Control: Continental 1559, you said you're losing left engine?
Pilot: We're losing our number 1 engine. We're going to have to go over to Dulles.
Air Traffic Control: Continental 1559, are you declaring an emergency?
Pilot: Yes sir, we are.
As the plane made its way to Dulles, the fire cadets lost sight of it, hoping it would land safely
"Then we lost it over the trees," recalled Wayne Drapeu, who could only think: "I'm glad I'm not sitting on that plane."
The plane landed safely at Dulles. None of the 44 passengers was hurt, nor was any crew member.