Los Angeles Times
11:05 AM EDT, September 22, 2012
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, landed safely in California on Friday evening, hours after the 10-seat charter plane carrying her from Omaha to the West Coast filled with smoke and was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver.
Ann Romney's spokeswoman, Sarah Haley, who was traveling with her and three other aides, said smoke began filling the cabin of the Canadair Challenger 601 about halfway through the flight from Omaha to Santa Monica. The crew members conferred with the two Secret Service agents on board and “immediately made the call to land in Denver,” Haley said.
During the descent, which Haley said lasted about 10 minutes, the sole flight attendant used the fire extinguisher to try to control the smoke billowing into the cabin, which aides were told was probably caused by an electrical fire. Though Haley said she did not see any flames, the plane smelled like burning rubber and the smoke caused eye irritation for some passengers and a burning sensation in their throats. No one on board had to use oxygen masks, and no one was injured or treated for any symptoms related to the smoke.
There were at least eight firetrucks and other emergency vehicles on the runway when the plane landed, and Romney, accompanied by the Secret Service agents, was the first to evacuate the plane by the small set of stairs.
“Everyone remained very calm,” Haley said during a phone interview after landing in Santa Monica. “Everyone knew the situation was being handled the best it could be handled.… We were blessed to be that close [to Denver].”
Ann Romney’s Secret Service detail advised the Secret Service team accompanying her husband, so the former Massachusetts governor was kept abreast of the situation as it unfolded. The Republican nominee was told that everything was under control and spoke to his wife as soon as they landed, Haley said.
Mitt Romney will spend the night in San Francisco after fundraising events there and plans to meet up with his wife Saturday in Southern California. The Romneys have a home in La Jolla, and Ann Romney will have some personal time this weekend before resuming her campaign schedule—which will include an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Tuesday night.
After his mother landed in Santa Monica, Matt Romney tweeted: “Who says USSS [the U.S. Secret Service] doesn't have sense of humor? upon landing tonight, agent leaned over to my mom and said: ‘so this was the non-smoking flight.’”
In an unrelated incident, Sen. Marco Rubio's flight to Washington, D.C. Friday was also plagued with mechanical troubles.
"American Air says maintenance problem.Yet suddenly group of new passengers boarding," the Senator from Florida tweeted. "Holding plane to get connectors on from delayed flight?"
In another post, he added, "Delaying flight for 'maintenance' to squeeze connectors from other flight, oldest trick in book. Feel bad for crew.#cmonman#AmericanAirlines."
The pilots and flight attendants, he said in a separate post, are "top notch."
But his skepticism towards the airline continued to be evident as he relayed: "Oh guess what? They fixed the plane! Just as the last of the connecting passengers finished boarding. #magic."
His frustration earned him a sympathetic response from the airline.
"Thanks for your patience, Marco. We hope you have a great flight," read a post to the official Twitter feed of American Airlines.