Mechanics with United Airlines are trying to figure out what caused an odor of smoke in the cockpit of an Airbus 320 plane just after it took off from Los Angeles International Airport last night. The plane made an emergency landing in Santa Barbara about a half an hour later.
About 140 passengers were evacuated safely at one of the gates to the terminal through an adjustable glass walkway that was part of the improvements five years ago.
Prior to the decision to take the passengers off, Santa Barbara City Fire crews, including the specialized foam trucks based at the airport, made a detailed visual inspection around the plane. The smoke had dissipated by the time the plane was on the runway. The cause is under investigation.
The interior of the plane was also inspected using special thermal imaging heat detectors.
This afternoon the plane was still at the terminal building where it had been parked Monday night.
Passengers who spoke to NewsChannel 3 did not have many details about the incident.
Some waited for a replacement plane. Some rented cars and drove north.
The plane was scheduled to land in San Francisco.
One passenger said he was eventually headed to Canada.
Anyone leaving the secured area of the airport could not get back in until this morning when TSA agents returned. At the time of the emergency landing, TSA workers were done for the day and no other departures were scheduled.
The airline took care of overnight hotel accommodations.
Airport Operations Director Tracy Lincoln said the Airbus 320 does not fly out of Santa Barbara these days but similar planes do come and go. The fire crews are trained to handle these planes and a full load. In this case, additional fire engines, and an AMR ambulance were also called in.
As for the response overall, "they secured the emergency quickly and they got those engines shut down so those people were safe," said Lincoln. "The aircraft rescue with firefighting crews in radio communications with that captain . They trouble shot it well and quickly."
It is unknown how long the disabled plane will be in Santa Barbara.