Plane fire shuts down Charleston airport

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board will try to determine why debris fell from the engine of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, starting a fire and forcing officials to shut down Charleston International Airport, a company official said.


The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that debris from the aircraft fell onto the runway and into the grass Saturday, sparking a blaze that closed the airport for more than an hour.

Spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said the aircraft was undergoing preflight runway testing in North Charleston when the incident occurred. Eslinger said the 787 was the latest one built at the Boeing campus in North Charleston.

“After the investigation, we will determine what went wrong and come up with a remedy,” she said.

No one was injured in the incident, and Eslinger said production will not be affected.

Charleston Air Force Base, which owns the runways that are jointly used by the airport, declared a ground emergency at 4:07 p.m. when a grass fire erupted on the airfield, Air Force spokeswoman Rose Alexander said.

Emergency crews then found metal debris on the approach to the airport’s only operational runway and ordered it shut down to complete a sweep of the 7,000-foot strip, Alexander said.

The airport’s main 9,000-foot runway is out of commission as it undergoes a complete overhaul over the next few months.

“Our folks came to look at the debris to see if it was from a military aircraft,” Alexander said.

The shutdown caused two flights to be diverted, airport spokeswoman Becky Beaman said.

A Mesa Air flight for US Airways from Charlotte, N.C., and a Shuttle America flight for Delta from Detroit were diverted to Savannah, Ga., spokesmen for US Airways and Delta confirmed Saturday. Both flights later arrived in Charleston.

The incident also affected a Southwest flight taking off from Charleston.

The pilot reported striking something on the runway, according to Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins. The flight landed in Nashville, Tenn., as a precaution to be checked out. Nothing wrong was found, and it continued on to Chicago, he said.

The airport closed around 4:30 p.m. and reopened at 5:41 p.m., Beaman said.