9/12/01: Willard waits for instructions from FAA

This story originally appeared on Sept. 12, 2001.

SAVOY — It will take some time to get the nation's airline traffic back on schedule, even after the Federal Aviation Administration gives the OK to resume domestic flights.

"People need to have patience with the system and understanding," said Elaine McCoy, director of UI's Institute of Aviation. "Our whole aviation system has been disrupted in a way it's never been disrupted before."

Willard Airport in Savoy closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday and reopened at 4:30 a.m. today. But that doesn't mean anyone was flying. Airport officials will determine whether the airport will remain open after getting updated information from the FAA today.

The airport has 16 flights arriving or departing daily, said airport manager Joe Attwood. Four flights took off Tuesday morning two American Eagle flights to Chicago, one TransWorld Express flight to St. Louis and one Northwest Airlink flight to Detroit before the air traffic was grounded.

One commercial flight, en route from Philadelphia to Seattle carrying 89 passengers and six crew, was diverted to Willard Tuesday morning. A private plane carrying Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood and a few others was already on the ground, and another private plane that was headed to Peoria for maintenance landed in Savoy.

Six aviation students were flying Tuesday morning as well, and they were immediately called back to the airport after the FAA grounded air traffic.

"We were very fortunate we received only one of the diverted flights," Attwood said.

Willard is on Level 4 security, meaning no vehicles may park within 100 feet of the terminal building, metal detectors are set on a higher sensitivity and luggage may be subject to a hand search.

Attwood said any changes in security or the way Willard operates will depend on the directions it receives from the FAA. But air traffic will be disrupted for some time.

"Large airports are just a mess right now," McCoy said. "There are planes all over the place. Even with a major weather delay, it can take three to four days to get the schedule back. And this is all over the country."

Once flights resume, travelers are advised to arrive at least an hour early for their flights.

"If you show up 15 minutes before you're supposed to take off, most likely you will not board a plane," said UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

All the passengers on the Boeing 757 diverted to Willard found a place to stay, said Barbara Payne of the local American Red Cross office. She said the Red Cross is helping some passengers get hotel rooms and food and contact family.

Payne said local Red Cross volunteers are taking calls from people concerned about family members and relaying them to Red Cross centers in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as to military bases.

"We have a lot of families with members in the military," Payne said. "Bases have been locked down and there is no communication. We've already gotten calls from people with family members who worked in the World Trade Center."

 

 

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