Landing mishap closes airport

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More than a dozen flights to and from Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport were delayed, canceled or diverted Tuesday after a cargo plane went off the runway into nearby grass just after landing.  

The pilot and co-pilot were aboard the aircraft, which carried about 4,000 pounds of fuel. According to airports security chief Shane Bothwell, there was no damage to the craft and no injuries to either person on board. 

The twin prop plane, a Convair 580, is owned by IFL Group and had been chartered by Cayman Airways to transport cargo from Florida.  

According to the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, the aircraft was “still on its final landing roll at slow speed [when it] reportedly experienced an apparent steering problem,” causing the plane to leave the runway on the north side of the runway strip shortly before 12:30 p.m. 

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Cayman Airways said: “While there are no injuries or significant damage to the aircraft or its cargo, the Owen Roberts Airport has been closed by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority until the aircraft is safely moved from the runway vicinity.”  

Cayman Airways Chief Executive Officer Fabian Whorms said, “[The aircraft] is not a Cayman Airways aircraft and was not being operated by Cayman Airways personnel. This IFL Group aircraft was chartered by Cayman Airways to carry cargo in this instance.” 

Crews unloaded the cargo plane on the grassy area and Fire Service trucks towed the aircraft away. Until the plane was moved, due to its proximity to the air strip, other planes could not use the runway, in accordance with international airline regulations.  

The airport reopened shortly before 5 p.m. 

At least four foreign airline flights due to arrive at Owen Roberts were diverted to other airports, redirected awaiting further instruction or canceled.  

A Delta Airlines flight and an American Airlines flight, due to land at 3:30 p.m. and 4:03 p.m., respectively, were diverted. Another American Airlines/US Air flight – 1541 – which was due to have left Miami for Grand Cayman at 2:10 p.m. was canceled, although it was not clear whether that was related to the Owen Roberts airport shutdown. Another American/US Air flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, was redirected.  

Cayman Airways scheduled flights also were delayed for several hours. 

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The cargo plane sits on the grass at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Tuesday afternoon after it veered off the runway. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

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Firefighters from the George Town Fire Station responded to the incident and later towed the plane from the site. – PHOTO: JEWEL LEVY
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  1. Are you telling me that it took 4-1/2 hours to get the plane back on the runway and out of the way so that other aircraft could land? That should have been a 30 minute job!

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  2. It’s worth looking up the history of this aircraft. It was built in 1953 as a Convair 340 then underwent the 580 turboprop conversion in the late 1960s. The construction number is 51! I’d say this old lady is doing pretty well for her age.

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