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Plane Passengers Cause Disturbance

April 16, 1999

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Passengers demanding to know why an Eastwind Airlines flight had again been delayed were so irate that police at Piedmont Triad International Airport called in sheriff’s deputies for backup.

About 120 passengers on a long-delayed flight from Boston to Orlando, Fla., started screaming and chanting ``we want answers″ after they got off the plane following a scheduled stop in Greensboro on Thursday, onlookers said.

``People got off the plane and started yelling at the stewardesses,″ said Bill Gagne, a traveler waiting for another delayed flight.

Although deputies were called, there were no arrests.

The plane had originally been scheduled to leave Boston about 6 a.m. Thursday, but it was delayed until the afternoon. One of the company’s five planes was down for repairs, delaying all of the company’s flights, Johnson said.

At 6:30 p.m., it finally arrived in Greensboro for a change of crew and short safety check, said Matt Johnson, an Eastwind station manager.

But crew members scheduled to fly on to Orlando had by then finished their shifts and needed to be replaced. As a result, the flight didn’t leave for Orlando until about 8 p.m., Johnson said.

``Even the stewardess getting off didn’t know where they were going,″ said Heidi VanAmburgh. ``All day long, nobody explained anything.″

Eastwind, a discount airline based in Greensboro, has been plagued in recent weeks by flight delays, cancellations and reroutings.

On Saturday, the airline called airport security after passengers destined for Trenton, N.J., refused to get off a plane for fear they would be stranded in Greensboro.

The Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up safety inspections of Eastwind in light of the recent problems.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen in Atlanta said the FAA often increases inspections on airlines when they are experiencing unusual circumstances, such as financial trouble or labor problems.

``It’s not uncommon for us to increase surveillance when we believe it’s necessary,″ she said.

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