Pilots flee flight at Dulles, leaving passengers aboard

Two climb down ropes

false alarm cancels flight

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 19, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON - More than 200 passengers aboard a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Amsterdam were briefly stranded on a taxiway at Washington Dulles International Airport last night after the flight's two pilots abruptly got off the plane.

The pilots reportedly used ropes to lower themselves from the aircraft after another crew member mistakenly sounded an emergency alert shortly after the plane pulled away from the terminal. FBI agents surrounded the plane, local television news reported.

In a statement last night, Northwest called the alert a false alarm. The airline did not identify the pilots.

The 215 passengers and 11 crew members who remained aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 36 were let off the airplane on the tarmac at Dulles about 8:15 p.m., said Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Flight 36 was canceled last night, but the incident did not disrupt other service at Dulles.

Brown said passengers "appeared to be very calm" as they left the airplane. Responding to Northwest's description of the event as a false alarm, Brown said the FAA is reviewing the incident.

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