A runway at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport was briefly closed this morning, following the evacuation of an American Eagle Embraer E145. The aircraft was evacuated following the sighting of smoke in the cockpit. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported.
While minor incidents pop up now and again in the aviation industry, evacuations on the runway are a relatively uncommon occurrence. Simple Flying recently reported that a March 2019 runway evacuation in London was deemed by investigators to be unnecessary, and could carry a significant risk. Today’s runway evacuation appears to have been ordered by the pilots in response to smoke observed in the cockpit.
Flight AA4873 was an American Airlines flight scheduled to fly from Roanoke Airport to Philadelphia this morning. Today, the trip was due to be carried out by an Embraer ERJ145, registered as N634AE.
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The aircraft involved, N634AE, is 21.2 years old, according to data from Planespotters.net. The plane was initially delivered to American Eagle in July 1999. Since then, it has been shuffled around between various American Eagle operators such as Envoy and Piedmont Airlines. It is currently being operated by Piedmont, given its callsign.
AA4873 was due to depart from Roanoke at 07:58. According to a LiveATC recording of the incident, the aircraft was cleared to take off from runway 24. Just over a minute after the pilot acknowledged the takeoff clearance, they announced that “Piedmont 4873 is rejecting [takeoff] on the runway”.
They go on to state the reason as, “We have smoke,” before adding, “We’re going to declare an emergency.”
American Airlines told Simple Flying that the aircraft was evacuated on a taxiway. When asked by the Tower controller, “Do you want to taxi clear of the runways, or do you want to stay on the runway” the pilot replied, “We’ll stay on the runway please, if you could roll the [fire] trucks.” The pilot then goes on to state that the aircraft is being evacuated.
In a statement, an American Airlines spokesperson told Simple Flying,
“American Eagle flight 4873 deplaned on the taxiway at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport due to a mechanical issue. All 23 customers were transported back to the terminal, and will re-depart on a different aircraft shortly. There were no injuries.”
Aircraft 46% occupied
An American Airlines spokesperson told Simple Flying that there were 23 passengers onboard the flight at the time of the incident. The airline states on its website that its Embraer E145 aircraft have 50 seats: three Main Cabin Extra, and 47 Main Cabin seats. Unlike other airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Delta, American Airlines is not currently capping aircraft capacity as a result of the ongoing global aviation situation.
Were you onboard AA4873? What do you make of today’s incident? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!