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Faulty engine forces emergency landing

MEDFORD — A faulty engine forced a small plane carrying five people to perform an emergency landing Friday at the Medford airport, officials said.

The plane was 18 miles north of Medford when the left engine sputtered and stopped, according to the passengers, who declined to give their names.

The plane left Portland earlier in the evening and was bound for San Francisco when the engine failed. The pilot radioed the airport at around 6 p.m., which sparked an emergency call out for the airport's emergency crews.

"They chose to land here because we are the only airport in some distance to have a fire department on duty at all times," said Bern Case, a spokesman for Rogue Valley International Medford Airport.

The airport tower directed the troubled Cessna to land at a stretch of tarmac far from the terminal and the busy runways used by the major airlines' passenger planes.

"During an emergency call, we usually have the plane land a good distance from the airport because should it crash, we don't want to shut down the airport," Case said.

Shutting down the airport could create dangerous situations as pilots are forced to reroute their planes, which can be a drain on fuel, Case said.

The fire department responded with two engines, one of them carrying 1,500 gallons of foam and water.

The plane landed safely just after 6 p.m. and was towed off the runway to the Million Air terminal, where a mechanic worked to determine why the engine suddenly stopped mid-flight, Case said.

"Right now, we don't know for sure what happened," he said.

The emergency landing came a day after a US Airways pilot had to ditch his passenger plane into New York's Hudson River. Case praised that pilot's actions in the face of extreme duress.

"Our emergency was the kind we like," Case said. "Nothing bad happened."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Three passengers walk Friday to the Million Air terminal at the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport from a small plane that was headed to San Francisco from Portland. The plane was diverted to Medford after one of its two engines failed. - Bob Pennell