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Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Airplane hijacking touches people at Lawrence Airport

September 11, 2001

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About 9:30 a.m., Tom Karcz, a Salina senior majoring in airway science and a flight instructor, said he and a fellow student landed their Cessna Skyhawk 172 in Lawrence after hearing about the Federal Aviation Administration's order to ground all airplanes. The FAA order was in response to the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City earlier today.

Karcz and Jake Bradley, a KSU sophomore also from Salina who flew the plane, were on a cross country flight from Salina to Kansas City, Mo., then back to Salina, where the university's pilot program is based. Bradley is working on his commercial pilot rating.

Karcz said they first landed at Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City and were given the go-ahead to continue.

"When we were 10 miles from the (Lawrence) airport, we were told they were going to have to ground all airplanes," he said. "It was coming from Washington. We were told to land immediately."

Over the airways, Karcz said he was told the reason for the FAA landing order was because of the terrorist acts in New York and Washington. He said he also heard that all international aircraft flights were being diverted to Canada.

"We could see all the aircraft in the air making 180s and heading to Kansas City," he said.

KSU's Cessna was the only plane that had to land in Lawrence this morning, said Lloyd Hetrick, manager of Lawrence airport's fixed-based operations. However, he said one commercial flight was supposed to leave this morning and couldn't because of the FAA order. He said there also were two airplanes with people from the East Coast who checked out the Kansas Speedway this weekend in preparation for the Winston Cup NASCAR race Sept. 29-30 and are supposed to leave this afternoon.

"I'm just interested like everyone else to know when we'll get back up in the air," he said. "With the planes grounded, at least you can have a pretty good idea of who's being hijacked or whatever."

Rod Mohr, Lawrence, said the instructional flight he was teaching also was canceled this morning.

"It's shocking. It's almost like something out of a Tom Clancy book when a plane hits Washington," said Mohr, a pilot for 29 years.

Although this morning's terrorist acts shocked people at the airport, Karcz said he was in even more disbelief since he spent the summer as an intern with American Airlines and hopes to work for the company upon his December graduation.

"It touches pretty close to me since I did an internship with them this summer," he said. "I'm going into the field at the start of next year, and it's unbelievable something like this would happen. I wouldn't wish that on any airline."

-- Staff writer Joy Ludwig can be reached at 832-7144.

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