Thu, 31 Jul 2003

Miss Universe's plane forced to land

The Jakarta Post, Medan, North Sumatra

A Garuda Indonesia plane carrying Miss Universe Amelia Vega had to make an emergency landing on Wednesday in South Sumatra province due to engine failure, officials said.

The Boeing 737 plane landed safely at the airport in the provincial capital of Palembang. No one was injured in the incident.

Vega of the Dominican Republic and Miss Indonesia Dian Krisna were among around 130 passengers aboard on the plane that left Jakarta at 8 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive Medan, North Sumatra, two hours and 10 minutes later.

"The pilot observed that the plane was overheating. If it was forced to continue flying, it could have caused an accident," Friz Partogi Hutapea, Garuda sales manager in the Medan office, told The Jakartan Post.

Hours later, the passengers continued the one-hour flight to Medan aboard another Garuda jet, which arrived at the city's Polonia Airport at 5:15 p.m.

The late arrival forced Vega, who was crowned Miss Universe 2003 in June at a pageant in Panama City, to skip several scheduled activities in Medan, Indonesia's third biggest city.

Friz apologized for the emergency landing on behalf of the country's flag carrier, which he said "could not be avoided".

Vega said she was fine as she arrived at Polonia Airport.

She praised the pilot, Hafriansyah, for deciding to make an emergency landing for the safety of the plane and its passengers. "The pilot made the right decision," she said.