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W.Va. airport is sanctuary for diverted flights

Dec. 02, 2012 @ 07:12 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Yeager Airport is a popular landing spot for unscheduled flights seeking sanctuary from equipment problems, weather or other issues.

Since 2010, equipment problems have diverted at least six commercial flights from their destinations to Yeager. Other flights have made unscheduled landings because of weather or visibility issues at their destinations.

Yeager marketing coordinator Anthony Gilmer told the Charleston Gazette that the airport attracts unplanned landings because of its location.

The Charleston airport is near two very high frequency omni-directional range, or VOR, stations in Henderson and in South Charleston. These stations serve as waypoints along high-altitude airways.

“Think of these as highways in the sky,” Gilmer said.

The stations, along with a third VOR station in Beckley, also serve as starting points for many standard arrival paths into a number of eastern airports, including Charlotte, Washington Dulles, Washington National, Detroit and Atlanta.

“When able, airlines typically divert to airports where they have scheduled flights,” Gilmer said.

Sometimes there is no time to be selective.

A Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville, Tenn., to Baltimore, Md., made an unscheduled landing at Yeager on July 13, 2009, after a football-sized hole appeared in the roof of the passenger cabin.

“The Southwest flight was looking for the closest airport with 6,000 feet of runway, and we were it,” said Brian Belcher, Yeager’s marketing director.

This year’s unscheduled landings include a USAirways flight from Philadelphia to Cincinnati that was diverted because of a cracked windshield, and a United Airlines flight from Roanoke, Va., to Chicago that was diverted because of pressurization issues.