CLEVELAND - A former local resident on a Wood County flight to Cleveland said the airplane experienced technical problems that resulted in smoke in the cabin and a few harrowing minutes.
Matt Harper said he was on United Flight 4082 from Parkersburg to Cleveland on Sunday, April 28 when the airplane experienced an electrical fire in the cockpit area when they were about 15 minutes out of Cleveland.
Harper had noticed what he thought was steam coming out of some of the vents and thought it might have been cold air condensation. However, soon all of the lights came on on the console and smoke was coming out of the instrument panel, he said Tuesday.
United Flight 4082 on the tarmac at Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport before taking off for Cleveland on Sunday.
The pilots' oxygen masks came down and alerts were sounding off. Harper noted the pilots were reacting to what was going on, but were definitely affected.
Things were tense for a few minutes as the plane turned 45 degrees and was descending quickly enough to cause concern for the passengers onboard, said Harper, a 1994 graduate of Parkersburg High School who works for Apple Inc. in Austin, Texas. He is the son of Nick and Debbie Harper of Vienna.
''I didn't know what was happening,'' Harper said. ''I was losing my breath.
''Then, within seconds we had a rapid descent from the clouds to what seemed right about the tree line.''
Harper was not sure if that was a result of the problem with the airplane or if that was part of an emergency plan to land the airplane as quickly as possible.
The airplane was able to land and was greeted by firefighters at the Cleveland airport. The passengers got off and walked through the rain to a nearby terminal.
''I assumed that someone would be there to greet us to ask if we were OK and to give us the best explanation possible, at least to be there to ask if we needed anything,'' Harper said. ''I was traveling with my 5-year-old son and it was very scary.
''There was a 10-minute period there when I thought we would die.''
Harper is hoping for some explanation from United about the situation in that the pilots did everything they were supposed to, a rundown of the problem that occurred and what steps were being taken to address it.
''There was nothing,'' Harper said. ''I know there were a lot of people from Parkersburg on the flight and we were all a little shaken afterward and we were all very glad to land and walk off the flight.''
Terry Moore, manager at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, said he was in contact with airport officials in Cleveland and was told the plane was in operation Tuesday. He believed the problem must have been able to be fixed quickly for the airplane to be back in the system.
Moore said he could not speak for how things were addressed in Cleveland, but in Parkersburg if there is a problem, a mechanic is called in and sees if it is something they can fix quickly or if a part needs to be ordered. Usually, a part can be delivered within 24 hours and the problem is addressed.
Moore believes it is a similar situation in Cleveland, but should be quicker with mechanics and parts more readily available.
Moore said he could not comment on the airplane itself, referring questions to the airline in Cleveland.
A representative from Silver Airways, which operates the flight, said if the problem was serious the plane would not be flying. The official said he would look into the matter but was not able to respond back by presstime.
As of Tuesday, Harper had not heard from the airline. He said he just wants an accounting of the situation, even if everything was done correctly, so he will not be making assumptions about what happened.
Harper said the pilots did a great job in getting them landed safely.
As a regular air traveler this was the first instance that had caused concern for Harper.
''I thought there was a good chance we might crash,'' he said.