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Published on Monday, August 22, 2011

Uneasy passengers endure two emergency landings on one flight

For anyone uneasy about flying, there’s little comfort last weekend as passengers on one flight endured a rare occurrence: Not one but two emergency landings. At the same time, the news from Peru involved more troubling airline safety news.

In the rare double emergency, passengers on an American Airlines flight went through two emergency landings, though only one involved a possible life-threatening problem.

Flight 223 departed from Boston on its way to LAX when a woman passenger experienced a medical emergency, which caused the first diverted landing at Louisville International Airport, said a spokesperson.

The woman reportedly had a heart condition and kept going in and out of consciousness, according to passenger Chris Buchanan.

After about three hours on the ground, the plane took off for LAX, where passengers must have been relieved.

A passenger reported an odd bump as the airline took off, according to NBC News.

Later, the pilot told passengers that Louisville airport officials found one of the plane’s tires on the runway and they would be making another emergency landing, this time at LAX.

"It's a little scary, I was coming back from vacation with my wife and two boys," Buchanan said. "My boys were fascinated and scared at the same time.”

The plane flew by the control tower at LAX so officials could inspect the damage before heading over the ocean to dump excess fuel.

As they approached, Buchanan said he saw a spotlight from an LAPD helicopter lighting up the plane’s landing gear and emergency crews gathering on the runway.

No injuries were reported, but a photographer at the scene said some sparks shot from what appeared to be a mangled piece of landing gear.

"Once we landed, everybody kind of cheered," Buchanan said.

In an entirely separate incident also over the weekend, a Peruvian military plane also flew 75 tourists to Lima after they were stranded in the highland city of Cuzco by the grounding of a commercial airline over alleged safety lapses.

State aeronautics safety official Ramon Gamarra said the tourists were flown to Peru’s capital so they could make international flights. He said there are plans to ferry more tourists out of Cuzco, which is the gateway to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Authorities suspended all Peruvian Airlines flights last week, citing maintenance shortcomings. The airline was Peru’s No. 2 domestic carrier after LAN, with 16 percent of inland flights, reported the AP.

For those concerned about safety: Air travel marked its safest year on record last year, with one accident for every 1.6 million flights made in Western-built jets, according to the international Air Transport Association.

By David Wilkening

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