Passengers on a Delta flight were left stranded for more than an hour on the tarmac at the Duluth Airport Friday night due to mechanical issue.
Delta flight SKW4602 out of Minneapolis, carrying about 50 passengers, made a smooth landing just before 10 p.m, about an 1 hour and 30 minutes later then its scheduled arrival due to a delay in Minneapolis.
Once on the ground in Duluth however, the flight lost steering capabilities and couldn’t turn onto the taxi way, according to Natalie Peterson, spokesperson for the Duluth Airport Authority.
Our plane is disabled on the runway and needs to be towed and the pilot said no one is answering their radios and no one is coming for us. Not joking. Been about an hour so far.— Chip (@gcvollrath) December 30, 2017
It wasn’t until the runway crew noticed the plane sitting on the runway help was called in, Peterson said. The runway crew was tied up pushing another plane out for departure.
Due to the loss of its steering capabilities, the plane had to be pulled into the gate. Peterson said there are only two workers certified to do that kind of job, both of whom work for neighboring Monaco Air. As soon as workers became aware of the stuck plane, a qualified worker was immediately called in and arrived within 20 minutes.
@KBJR6news passengers on the last Delta flight into DLH are stranded on tarmac. Waiting for a tow truck!!— Erika Running (@ErikaRunning27) December 30, 2017
"The airport was completely not prepared for a situation like this," a passenger told KBJR 6 on the phone.
Peterson pointed to a breakdown in communication between the plane and the FAA Air Traffic Control tower upon the flight’s arrival. Protocol calls for the tower to notify the Airport Authority when a plane lands. That protocol wasn’t followed in this case, Peterson said.
“We’re grateful the plane landed safely. The airport’s responsibility is making sure passengers get to the gate area safely,” Peterson said. “The airport is open and staffed around the clock.”
The CRJ-200 Twin Jet plane was eventually towed to its gate and passengers were let off shortly after 11 p.m. Peterson said 77 minutes passed from the time the plane landed to when it arrived at its gate.
Peterson said a meeting with the FAA Tower has been called for early next week to address the communication issue.