Continental flight delayed after aircraft sinks into asphalt at airport

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March 29--ST. THOMAS -- A Continental Airlines flight was delayed about four hours after the plane got stuck in the asphalt on the King Airport taxiway.

At about 1:15 p.m. Monday, Continental Airlines Flight 1883, flying from St. Thomas to Newark, N.J., was on the taxiway heading out to the runway for take-off.

Port Authority spokeswoman Monifa Marrero said the Federal Aviation Administration alerted the King Airport manager that the aircraft was stuck.

"The gears were sunk into the asphalt," Marrero said. "The main gear and the rear gear were embedded in about 1 1/2 inches of asphalt."

Continental Airlines' field aircraft mechanic and general manager were on-site. Worldwide Flight Services arrived on the scene and towed the plane out of the asphalt, she said.

The towing crew was able to push the plane about 100 feet east, then the pilot was able to taxi back to the gate at the terminal under the plane's own power, Marrero said.

One hundred and seventy-three passengers were on board -- who disembarked to wait for the plane to be assessed -- along with six crew members, Marrero said.

"After the incident, we closed that portion of the taxiway -- Taxiway A," Marrero said. "It is closed until further notice."

The Port Authority is conducting an investigation to determine what happened, Marrero said. The taxiway was not part of the recent runway resurfacing project, she said.

No other flights were delayed, planes can still use the other portion of the taxiway to access the main runway, Marrero said.

In the 10 years she has worked for the Port Authority, Marrero said, she has never known a plane to sink into the asphalt.

"I'm not aware of any other incident where the plane sank," she said.

Andrew Ferraro, spokesman for Continental Airlines, said the passengers were delayed approximately four hours. He said they boarded the same plane and departed St. Thomas at about 5 p.m.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-7882 ext. 311 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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