Fear factor: Jumbo jet turns over Scott Stadium
Some UVA football spectators felt fear pangs Saturday when a low-flying jumbo jet appeared over the field. The craft's large size, slow speed, and appearance over a loaded sports stadium a day after the anniversary of 9/11 combined to stoke concerns that displaced–- momentarily at least–- the first touchdown by the opposing team.
It turns out the plane was merely the ride home for that opposing team, Texas Christian University, which won the game 30-14. The American Airlines charter had gone up to Dulles International Airport for catering and cleaning, and it was simply heading back to Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport, according to American spokesperson Tim Wagner.
"There's absolutely nothing unusual about it," says Wagner, confirming an online report that the plane in question was a Boeing 757-200, a vehicle that can hold up to 234 passengers, a large size for Charlottesville, but well within the capacity of CHO's 6,001-foot runway.
When football fans saw the plane, according to data on the online flight-tracking service FlightAware, it had slowed from its top speed that afternoon of 348mph and was traveling just 167-188mph at an altitude around 2,500 feet. The plane appeared to be engaged in what aviators call its "procedure turn," the pre-landing course reversal pilots typically make to line up with the runway.
In recent days, there have been reports that another 757 has been doing touch-and-go landings at CHO. Nothing unusual about that, the airport director says.
Had the TCU charter been commanded by massacre-minded terrorists, the death toll might have been lower than other recent Saturdays, as UVA officials reported that September 12's Scott Stadium attendance was 48,336 fans, the lowest tally in 10 years.
Correction: Wagner's quote above was "There's absolutely nothing unusual about it. (The un- in "unusual" was missing in the original version of this story.