ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Severe weather forces hundreds of tourists to make an unexpected stop at the Chicago Rockford International Airport Sunday afternoon and the sudden landings meant some extra cash for RFD.
“Everybody goes into standby mode when we start getting these notifications from O’Hare," says RFD Director Mike Dunn.
A United flight from Munich, Germany, carrying more than 250 passengers was the first plane to make an unscheduled stop Sunday at the Rockford Airport. The turbulent weather can mean big bucks for RFD.
“Every time a plane lands at RFD like this, there's a landing fee involved,” says Dunn. “That can range from $900 up to $2,000."
There are a lot of rules when a plane is diverted. After three hours, passengers have to be allowed off the plane, and if it’s an international flight, customs agents also have to be prepared. If passengers are still on board, the fire department has to be on the tarmac while the plane is fueled in case of a fire.
“The fuel if its spilled can re-ignite so we put down a layer of foam that separates the fuel from air so it can't reignite," says Lt. Brad Walker with the Rockford Fire Department.
His station has two firefighters whose sole charge is incidents at RFD. The department has two special fire trucks to respond to incidents at the airport. One can hold 3 thousand gallons of water and 1000 gallons of foam so crews are ready to put out a lot of fire very quickly.
Two smaller American Airlines flights from Dallas, Texas, also landed in Rockford. Airport leaders say the teamwork during these unexpected stops can be useful in building partnerships with the airlines. If there is bad weather at O'hare, more than 30 different international and domestic airlines pick RFD as their first choice for diversions.
"Whether its snow or thunderstorms or high winds, this is a safe place for those airlines to put their equipment," says Dunn.
Fire crews and airport staff members say watching these planes land
can be exciting, but watching them take-off is even more satisfying.