“In this situation, it was a minor emergency,” said Jay Ratliff, an aviation expert from the region.
The MD-90 is a narrow-bodied, medium range aircraft that is being phased out of fleets as they age. The model was originally produced around 30 years ago, Ratliff said. Still, they’re steady and reliable planes. Even if the plane lost one of its two engines, it could’ve still flown all the way to Atlanta, he said.
But some passengers were still shaken from hectic flight out of Dayton. Steve Minor, a resident of Lebanon, said he was certain the left engine had blown. Once that initial “boom” occurred, flyers became frantic. What convinced him something was wrong? The plane was flying low, and couldn’t seem to pick up any altitude.
“There was panic in everyone in the plane,” he said. “I honestly was really concerned we weren’t going to get on the ground.”
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Three rows behind him, a small boy cried fervently. Some people prayed — out loud — he said. He texted his daughter and told her the plane was making an emergency landing, that there would be emergency vehicles waiting .
“Are you okay? I love you,” she said. “I’m scared.”
The Dayton Daily News found that the type of plane, manufactured by McDonnel Douglas, has had more than 25 abnormal incidents since 2012. The site AeroInside measures aviation incidents and accidents by airline and model. The MD-90’s issues range from engine shut downs, cargo fires, hydraulic failure and rejected takeoffs. Ratliff said that type of aircraft doesn’t have a higher rate of issues than other similar aircraft.
“It happens, certainly,” he said. “When it comes to eye witness accounts, with everything going on, there’s the tendency to not exactly remember exactly what happened.”
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Multiple fire crews were dispatched to the scene minutes early as they awaited the arrival of the distressed plane.
“I think they were expecting much worse,” Minor said. “They told us to brace for landing.”
The airline rescheduled the flight to Atlanta in a different plane for a departure at 11:30 a.m. Only about 70 of the original 123 passengers got on that flight. Delta officials sent an email to passengers, apologizing for the inconvenience. For Minor, they deposited 17,500 bonus miles into his Delta account.
“I’m sure it may have been unsettling when Flight 2392 had to return to Dayton this morning due to an unexpected mechanical issue with the airplane,” the email read.
Ratliff said emergency landings force airlines to file a “mountain” of paperwork, and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will receive reports on the incident.
“You kind of fear for the worst and pray for the best,” Hemmerich said. “I’m just glad I was able to make it out of there.”