Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport is open for business after being shut down for about an hour Friday, but one runway could be closed for days as officials investigate the FedEx cargo plane that caught fire as it landed Friday.
Greg Meyer, spokesman for the Broward County Aviation Department, said that National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived at the airport Saturday morning and have to do their assessment before anyone else touches the plane. The north runway at the airport remains closed but the south runway reopened Friday night, as did the airport after briefly shutting down.
The airport handles about 700 flights every day, but Meyer said they believe the airport can handle its traffic with just the south runway.
“Depending on the volume, there could still be delays, but the FAA seems to think the south runway can handle our operations,” Meyer said.
By late Saturday morning the airport had 43 delayed flights and six cancellations. On Friday night, some flights were delayed one to two hours and others were diverted to the Palm Beach and Miami airports.
The NTSB’s “go-team” arrived Saturday morning, and their investigation will likely take days to complete, Meyer said. Until they finish the investigation, airport staff are only allowed to clear debris off the runway and inspect the runway damage.
“We’re not allowed to touch the aircraft,” Meyer said.
The fiery landing happened at about 5:52 p.m. as the flight was arriving from Memphis. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said there were no injuries and the fire didn’t spread to the cargo on the plane, which included 46,000 pieces of mail and 40,000 pounds of fuel.
Early but unconfirmed indications were that the landing gear collapsed as it touched down on the north runway. The plane’s left wing and underside caught fire, and crews continued spraying it with foam periodically for at least two hours.
FedEx said in a statement that only two crew members, both pilots, were aboard the flight and they were both in good condition. The pilots escaped on a rope ladder out the right side of the plane.
Air traffic controllers at the Fort Lauderdale airport issued a ground stop and halted flights for about an hour. By 7 p.m., flights resumed departing from the south runway.
Friday’s incident was the second Florida-related plane fire of the day following a fire involving an American Airlines Miami-bound flight that was leaving from Chicago O’Hare Airport.