The morning of Sept. 12 was an unusual one for the South Bend Regional Airport (SBRA). Because of fog and thunderstorms in Chicago, 12 flights on their way to O’Hare International Airport were diverted to SBRA within the span of only two hours.
While such events do happen on occasion, never in the airport’s 80-year history have that many aircraft been diverted in that short a timeframe to SBRA. Yet it became an opportunity for the airport’s various operations to shine.
“It was a great team effort,” recalled Pat Thompson, City Manager for Air Wisconsin, which operates United Express flights at SBRA. Thompson noted that a great deal of coordination and collaboration occurred among staff at the airport, Atlantic Aviation, which handled refueling, and the various airlines whose flights were diverted here. All the diverted aircraft fly under the United Express banner and included Shuttle America, Mesa Air, Trans States Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and GoJet Airlines. The flights originated from various cities including Green Bay, Richmond, Lexington, Cincinnati, Fort Myers and even one flight from Canada.
With about 600 passengers among the 12 flights, all but two of the aircraft decided to deplane.
Following this unprecedented event, praise poured in for SBRA staff and the three Air Wisconsin agents who were on hand that day.
“The folks [at SBRA and Air Wisconsin], who got the lion’s share of the diversions, were outstanding to work with and did a great job,” said Ron Weeks, Controller, United Airlines.
“Your crew deserves a huge thank you. There’s nothing like having a bunch of unscheduled aircraft land and just a couple agents on duty to handle the situation,” said Joan Chew, Customer Service, Trans State Airlines.
Hubert Greene, System Director, Operations Control Center for United, simply added, “On behalf of everyone at United Airlines, I would like to offer a well deserved thank you.”
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