Tulsa World: Plane carrying Inhofe makes emergency landing

Tulsa World 

Plane carrying Inhofe makes emergency landing

by: JIM MEYERS and NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writers
Monday, December 01, 2008
12/1/2008 7:25:32 PM

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An American Eagle regional jet carrying U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and 52 others was forced to make an emergency landing Monday after one of its tires was damaged upon take off.

None of the 50 passengers and three crew members on board the plane bound for Chicago reported any injuries, authorities said.

When the plane took off, a right main gear tire separated and the pilot notified the tower of the problem. The aircraft was then directed to enter a fuel burn-off flight pattern, Fire Capt. Michael Baker said.

It was declared that the plane was going to make an emergency landing at 12:22 p.m., Tulsa International Airport spokeswoman said Alexis Higgins said.

The plane landed safely at 12:27 p.m. and was towed to the terminal where the passengers were able to exit.

Upon landing, the damaged tire shredded rubber along the runway. It took about 30 minutes for workers to clean the remains of the tire off the runway.

Inhofe played down the incident in an interview, saying it was not much of an emergency. Inhofe described the landing as very good.

"They put the trucks out there. I think they are required to do that,'' the Oklahoma Republican said. "I have had a lot more emergencies in old airplanes myself than that.''

In 1999, the veteran pilot made an emergency landing in Claremore after his plane lost its propeller. In 2006, an experimental plane Inhofe was flying spun out of control upon landing at Tulsa's Riverside Airport.

He admitted some of his experiences in airplanes were unusual.

Inhofe was on his way to Washington where he was scheduled to join an official congressional delegation to Africa and the Middle East.

That trip, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, now will be delayed by one day.

"World AIDS Day brings aid and awareness to the issue, and this year specifically encourages leaders to 'take the lead' to stop AIDS from destroying their countries,'' Inhofe said.

"This week, I will be traveling to several African nations meeting with key African leaders who are on the front lines in fighting HIV/AIDS in their countries.''

He said visits are scheduled in Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Earlier this year, Inhofe voted against reauthorizing a major program to combat AIDS and other diseases in Africa even though he conceded the it had been "vastly successful.''

"Unfortunately, when it came time to reauthorize this important legislation, members of Congress increased the price tag to $50 billion, which is $30 billion over the last authorization and $15 billion over the president's request,'' he said at the time of the vote.

A frequent visitor to Africa, Inhofe said the trip also will focus on a program to build African brigades.

"I am more familiar on the Armed Services Committee than anyone else is with Africa,'' he said. "So, I am the point man on the African brigades.''

Others expected to make up the delegation include Republican Reps. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Jeff Miller of Florida and Randy Neugebauer of Texas.