An emergency landing in Wilmington last night created a bit of extra business today. The Virgin Atlantic Airbus was on its way from Miami to London when the crew felt heat coming up through the floor, and some passengers smelled smoke in the rear of the plane. The plane was about an hour over the Atlantic when they began to notice the signs of a possible problem. That is when the pilot decided to turn around and head for the nearest airport, Wilmington International. The plane landed at 10:17 p.m. Thursday night, with plenty of emergency vehicles standing by. A mechanic spent the afternoon checking the plane and readying it for take off tonight. Virgin Atlantic is footing the bill for cab, hotel and emergency expenses for the 300 or so passengers. The passengers were making the most of their stay in Wilmington, while waiting for their flight to London. A passenger on the flight, Bron Vaughan said, "Yeah, I think we were all a bit nervous when you're up that high and you don't know what the technical problem could be and you're out over the ocean." Valery March was also on the flight and said, "We came down in the mist, saw just water around us, then we saw land and thought thank God for that." The passengers were well taken care of as soon as they got into the ILM terminal. "One of the chaps managed to open up the bar we had a drink and that relaxed things quite a lot," said passenger Simon Dinning. The 300 plus passengers and crew members made their way to area hotels. And since they only had their carry-ons, they checked out a few stores too. "Oh yeah we're certainly going to do some shopping because Virgin's going to pay the bills. No, I’m going to get something to have a shave with and a wash and probably change of shirt,” said Vaughan. The unexpected visit is good news for our local economy. “I found lots of things that I'd like to buy. I bought this, it's a little souvenir and it's a Christmas decoration. It will always remind me of landing in Wilmington. She's my lucky angel, she's going to hang up in the airplane tonight and get us all back to London,” said March. Airport officials said the Virgin Atlantic engineer signed off on the jet, saying it's fine to fly. The cause of the heat may have been traced to a toilet pump. The plane is scheduled to land in London by 6:00 a.m. Saturday.
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