CHEYENNE – Pilots of a Delta Airbus A321 made an emergency landing at Cheyenne Regional Airport on Friday afternoon, leaving airport staff scrambling to assist more than 200 passengers and crew members for at least nine hours.

Around 3 p.m., pilots detected rising temperatures in the cargo department of a plane headed from Salt Lake City to Detroit, and deployed the aircraft’s fire extinguishing bottles.

“As soon as they did that at 35,000 feet, they knew they needed to land at an airport quickly” said Cheyenne Regional Airport director Tim Barth. “And, we were it. I got a call around 3:15 p.m. as I was leaving. They said ‘we’ve got an inbound Delta Airbus that’s on fire,’ which got my attention.”

It’s still unclear whether fire was found on the plane, but passengers re-boarded to retrieve belongings after it was cleared by firefighters. No injuries were reported.

“The fire department did have some higher readings, but not to indicate it was unsafe,” Barth said. Others indicated it may have been an electrical malfunction.

But passengers headed east were in good spirits following the incident.

“I’d never heard of Cheyenne before this,” said Mark Galsworth. “But we’re making the best of it, the only thing missing is maybe some beer.”

There was no beer, but Delta did give airport staff the company credit card to arrange catering through Little America.

“They’ve been taking care of us,” said Detroit resident Yolanda Screws.

“They even brought in two different meals. We can’t leave the terminal unless we want to book another flight or drive down to Denver,” Screws said.

Still, many were shaken following the abrupt landing.

“It was nerve wracking for sure,” said Jason Plaisted, who’s traveling to New York. “Especially when you’re an hour into the flight and, all of a sudden, they’re telling you it’s an emergency. No one really got upset or panicked, but we descended from 30,000 or so feet in what felt like a corkscrew, which is gut wrenching. It was a really fast landing, I’d say less than 15 minutes.”

Airport managers said Friday’s group was the largest they’ve seen in decades.

“The seating area of the terminal has a capacity of roughly 225-250,” Barth said. “And, if this terminal wasn’t here tonight, we would have had to call Laramie County and the city to enact a county-wide emergency plan to handle this.”

Around 9 p.m., passengers were told to expect another flight out of Cheyenne around midnight, the same time Cheyenne’s twice-daily SkyWest flight from Dallas was expected to arrive.

“They’re sending a Boeing 757 to pick up passengers,” Barth said. “I’m hoping SkyWest gets here before Delta does because we cant fit both those airplanes on this runway. We might have to park on the taxiway and make everyone walk out to it.”

Now, Delta will send mechanics and parts to repair the grounded aircraft.

“On top of this, we’ve had three weather-related diversions here today,” Barth said.

Chrissy Suttles is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s business and health reporter. She can be reached at csuttles@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3183. Follow her on Twitter at @chrissysuttles.

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