Lending a helping stair

Last-minute scramble gets team off plane

Posted: Tuesday, March 07, 2006


  Athletes from Team Greenland use an improvised stairway system to depart from their Boeing 757 jet Saturday morning. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Athletes from Team Greenland use an improvised stairway system to depart from their Boeing 757 jet Saturday morning.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Athletes exiting a Bowing 757 airplane that arrived from Greenland were greeted by a foreign airport contraption in Kenai on Saturday, after equipment inspectors discovered that a functional set of stairs tall enough to reach the plane’s door were not available.

At 1 a.m. Saturday morning, Mike LeNorman, the director of marketing for Era Aviation, received a call informing him that the available stairs would not be able to reach the 13 feet , 2 inches from the ground to the airplane’s door, he said.

“We thought that the stairs were adequate, but at the last minute we realized we could not use them,” LeNorman said.

At about 9 a.m., just 2 1/2 hours before the plane arrived, Bill Popp, chair of the 2006 AWG Host Society’s Revenue Development Committee, was contacted. Popp, Era Aviation, Pacific Rim Institute of Safety Management training center and Carlile Transportation pulled together to come up with a solution.

“We had to go into immediate problem-solving mode,” Popp said. “It was pretty hectic.”

PRISM provided a set of stairs that were mounted onto the back of a Carlile Transportation tractor trailer with a flatbed and Era Aviation provided a set of adjustable stairs that were used to allow passengers to walk from the flatbed truck to the ground, Popp said.

“It was shivering when we walked out on it,” said Tommy Jrgensen, a passenger who used the make-shift staircase to deplane. “They said, ‘Don’t laugh at us. We spent three hours building this.’”

Jrgensen is a table tennis official who flew three hours to Greenland from Denmark, then flew to Alaska on the 6 1/2-hour flight chartered by Air Greenland. After landing in Alaska, the Air Greenland pilot said they were trying something with two ladders and they were not sure how long it would be before Greenland could deplane. Jrgensen said he was anxious to get off the plane after all the flying. But Jrgensen said things came together quickly and using the two ladders was no big deal.

Popp said that the makeshift staircase was completed just in time.

“We pulled in there about the same time the plane landed,” said Mike Hall, who drove the truck and is the dispatch and operations manager for Carlile Transportation. “Everybody lined up and worked together ... . We’re going to be loading up the plane with the same setup next weekend.”

Popp said he does not know what Era has inventoried, but that it was his understanding that a tall enough set of stairs was available but malfunctioned and that a second set of available stairs was too short.

But in an earlier conversation over the phone, LeNorman said that the stairs that were available could reach only a height of 11 feet and did not mention there having been a second and taller set of stairs. LeNorman could not be reached a second time Monday afternoon to be asked about whether a second and taller set of stairs had been available.

The 757 was the only large plane to arrive without its own set of stairs over the weekend, LeNorman said.

“I think the real story here is how everybody pitched in,” he said.

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