TYLER - An investigation is underway into why the pilot of a Tyler-bound flight was unable to contact ground crews as the plane approached Tyler Pounds Regional Airport on Sunday night, forcing the flight to return to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
A spokesperson for Envoy Air, which operates American Eagle flights, said Tyler's airport terminal may have suffered a lightning strike that impacted the ground crew’s radios and ability to transmit back to the aircraft.
"[The flight crew] had been calling since they left Dallas," said passenger Wendy Bratteli. "And no one would answer the phone so they turned us around and flew us back to Dallas."
Once the plane got back to Dallas, passengers said they had to wait for a new pilot to arrive and fly the plane back to East Texas. The flight resumed once the crew arrived and communication was restored with American Eagle crews at Tyler Pounds,
The flight arrived just after midnight Monday -- three hours later than initially scheduled.
One passenger who spoke with CBS19 commended the flight crew for their professionalism throughout the incident. While she said the flight was frustrating, she hopes American Eagle works to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.
"I just hope they get a recovery plan, that they take it and learn from it, and next time they have a backup plan for whatever caused the problems," said Cynthia Campbell.
An Envoy Air spokeswoman said the airline is working to do just that.
"We sincerely regret the inconvenience to our passengers and are working to prevent a future occurrence," Nancy Kalin, director of communication for Envoy Air wrote in an email.
Officials with Tyler Pounds Regional Airport received reports the flight crew was unable to contact the air traffic control tower as they approached TYR. According to airport administrator Davis Dickson, it is "very likely" the pilot did not contact the tower due to its closing at 9:30 p.m. as posted in the FAA facility directory.
Dickson said in a statement the airport will work closely with Envoy to learn what caused this incident.
“We have interviewed some of our customers and gathered a number of documents validating the timelines of this event. It’s valuable for us to work from the facts to take action as needed.”
The airport has reviewed the airfield inspection reports and found that the airfield systems were in compliance.
Thus far the airport continues research to learn if the facility experienced a lightning strike and will assist Envoy in the investigation.”- Davis Dickson
CBS19 received reports that people trying to exit the airport's long-term parking had to wait for an attendant to arrive in order to leave the lot.
Dickson said he reviewed records and video footage which showed the plane arrived on the tarmac at 12:10 a.m. and the first credit card transaction exiting the parking lot was recorded at 12:16 a.m.
Story and video: http://www.cbs19.tv