Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flight carrying Ron Paul, others in Congress makes emergency landing

HOUSTON — A Continental Airlines flight carrying seven members of Congress from Houston to Washington was forced to make an emergency landing after it lost cabin pressure Tuesday afternoon.

Flight 458 was bound for Reagan National Airport, but was diverted and landed safely in New Orleans, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Ted Poe told 11 News.

Poe and fellow Texas Congressmen Nick Lampson, Ron Paul, John Carter, Ciro Rodriguez, Solomon Ortiz and Henry Cuellar were aboard the flight, said Poe’s press secretary DeeAnn Thigpen.

Ironically, the seven congressmen were trying to get back in time for a Tuesday night vote on an aviation safety bill, a spokesman for one of the representatives said.

There were 118 people total aboard the plane, Continental spokeswoman Julie King said.

No one was hurt.

Continental Airlines said the problem was caused by a sudden loss in cabin pressure.

Trevor Kincaid, a spokesman for passenger and Rep. Nick Lampson, said his boss told him “there was absolutely no panic on the plane.” Lampson told Kincaid the plane’s oxygen masks dropped down.

“Continental Airline’s personnel and staff were exceptional; executing what seemed to me a textbook performance in emergency procedure. I was very impressed,” Lampson said in a release.

Poe told 11 News the flight was about an hour late leaving Houston because of mechanical difficulties with an engine. He said things went downhill from there not long after taking off from Bush Intercontinental Airport.

"Suddenly, we started to descend more rapidly than normal and the oxygen masks came out," Poe said.

The pilots told everyone to fasten their seatbelts.

"There wasn't any talk because a lot of people had their oxygen masks on," according to Poe. "Everyone seemed to be quite calm."

The flight landed about 20 minutes after the scare began.

"You're thinking of everything, of course. You're thinking of all the possibilities," Poe told 11 News. "But the pilots did a great job of getting us down. And when we got down we saw all the fire trucks on the runway, just like in the movies."

For Poe and the others, it was an unforgettable experience.

"It was exciting to say the least," Poe said. "Glad to see that landing gear come down."

The cause of the loss of cabin pressure will be investigated.

Thigpen said the flight is frequently used by members of the Texas delegation who have returned home for the weekend. The 1:05 p.m. flight is the latest one that allows them to get back to Washington in time for 6:30 p.m. votes, she said.

The emergency landing was the third time in two days a plane was diverted over cabin pressure issues. A US Airways flight and a Northwest Airlines flight were diverted to airports in Kentucky and Wisconsin on Monday over cabin pressure issues.



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