ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An American Airlines jet made an emergency landing on a remote island in Alaska's Aleutians after a fire warning light malfunctioned, the airline said Monday.
Flight 175, traveling from Dallas-Fort Worth to Tokyo, landed safely at Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday, said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American. The island base has a 10,000-foot runway.
It turned out there was no fire, despite the warning light from a cargo compartment of the Boeing 777.
Smith said the 197 passengers were evacuated while cargo was removed. No injuries were reported.
Once on the treeless, tundra-carpeted island, the mood among the passengers ranged from fear to the thrill of such an experience in the middle of nowhere, said Maj. Spencer T. Van Meter, 611th Air Support Squadron commander at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. He also described passengers as "very happy and appreciative."
The jet later flew to Anchorage, arriving Monday. Smith said another jet will bring a new crew and depart Anchorage for Tokyo on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard said it initially was told the plane was on fire. Petty Officer Chris Gauthier said a C-130 was on standby on Kodiak Island, but it was not used.
American plans an internal investigation and has notified the Federal Aviation Administration. Smith said all signs point to a faulty indicator system.
"This is extremely rare but not at all unprecedented," he said.
The jet's fire suppression system was activated after the warning light went on in the cockpit, according to Smith.
Since the system was used, the flight was prohibited from continuing to Tokyo with its cargo load without suppression chemicals on board.
The luggage was left at Shemya, on the western tip of the Aleutians, and the jet flew about 1,500 miles to Anchorage instead of heading for Tokyo some 2,000 miles away.
Passengers were placed in hotels, and the luggage was being retrieved.