Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Ladies and gentlemen, O'Hare airport welcomes Mexicana Airlines 802, now arriving at gate 11 . . . 12 . . . 13 . . . 14 . . . 15 . . ."

CHICAGO -- A Mexicana Airlines flight overshot a runway while landing at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Friday night and struck a safety barrier, injuring a flight attendant, authorities said.

Flight 802 was arriving from Mexico City just after 7 p.m. when it was stopped by a barrier of lightweight, crushable concrete blocks, authorities said.

The safety barrier, known as an arrestor bed, was specifically installed to stop planes that overshoot runways, said Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride.

"The good news is the safety enhancements that we had in place worked perfectly and things are OK out there," she said.

One crew member went to the hospital with minor injuries, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Richard Rosado. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said the injured person was a flight attendant.

Authorities differed on the number of people on board the Airbus A320.

Mexicana Airlines spokesman Adolfo Crespo said there were 145 passengers and crew aboard, but Rosado said 142 people were evacuated using a stair truck raised to the rear of the plane.

The passengers were transported by bus to a nearby terminal.

"Everything went textbook," Rosado said of the evacuation.

Crespo says crosswinds forced the plane's nose gear off the runway, but Molinaro said an investigation will take some time.

The arrestor bed was installed recently, "probably in the past year," Molinaro said.

"It did its job, it stopped the plane," he said.

O'Hare Runway 22L closed Friday, but Pride said she expected it to reopen soon.

"The incident has not significantly affected traffic at the airport," she said.


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