Story by Sgt Isaac Martinez on 07/16/2019MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (July 16, 2019) As smoke filled the cabin of an American Airlines aircraft carrying 154 passengers, the pilots and crew were forced to make a quick decision.
"When the flight attendants told us that there was smoke, we immediately began an emergency descent and initiated a diversion from our route," said Edward Chuss, the pilot of the American Airlines flight from San Diego to Charlotte.
That's when Chuss made contact with the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma's Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower and informed the Marines of the situation, requesting an emergency landing on the air station. MCAS Yuma is referred to as the "busiest air station in the Marine Corps" boasting excellent year-round flying conditions for the hundreds of aircraft and over 14,000 personnel that train aboard it.
Shortly after, the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Marines with Section One heard the ringing of their "crash phone," and ATC informed them that the aircraft was 20 miles out from the flight line and coming to an emergency landing on the air station with smoke reported in the cabin of the aircraft. Within minutes, the ARFF Marines dressed in full firefighting gear and two OshKosh P-19R Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Vehicles were dispatched to the landing zone to provide assistance to the aircraft and its crew. The pilots of the aircraft requested that the ARFF Marines checked the wheels of the aircraft for hot brakes' after it landed. The term hot brakes' is in reference to when an aircraft lands and the breaks may be hot enough to set the wheels on fire.
"Rescue 25 (myself) and the Rescueman from the other P-19 dismounted our vehicles and walked up to the crew that was standing outside the aircraft," said Lance Cpl. Zachery Delaney, an aircraft rescue and firefighting rescueman stationed aboard MCAS Yuma. "We were asked to check for hot brakes and see if that was the issue, but were later informed that wasn't the problem."
ARFF is the only asset in Yuma, aside from the Yuma Proving Ground assets, that are trained to handle aircraft emergencies. In addition, the ARFF Marines train daily to be ready for any aircraft emergencies, civilian or military in nature.
Facilitating everything behind the scenes, the Marines and civilians with Base Operations, who are ultimately in charge of managing the airfield, all taxiways, and runways, were working expeditiously to ensure that all appropriate parties were notified and responding to the emergency in an efficient manner. Greg McShane, the Airfield Operations Officer, and the Marines that work with him had to ensure that no other aircraft would be affected by the emergency landing.
"That's just part of what we do, support in-flight emergencies that may happen," said McShane. "Fortunately for us, our folks are so well-trained to handle such emergencies that we can treat and respond to aircraft emergencies with little to no impact to our own operations."
Roughly 70 Marines and civilians aboard the air station were involved with supporting the emergency landing, some on standby, with several different sections coming into play to lend a helping hand to the pilots, crew, and people aboard the American Airlines flight. Safety is paramount and the personnel that provided support to American Airlines during the incident prove that safety is the number one priority at MCAS Yuma.