Wayne Airport as Busy as Ever, Despite Day-After-Crash Jitters

Times Staff Writer

As travelers pushed their way through the weekday crowds at John Wayne Airport on Monday, Northwest Airlines supervisor Jesse Law said it was business as usual at his ticket counter, with no flight changes and no fewer passengers boarding planes.

Northwest did confirm, however, that there was one cancellation: the 8:10 a.m. flight to Phoenix was called off "due to a mechanical problem with the aircraft," a reservation agent said. She said she had no further information on the cancellation.

Law agreed that climbing aboard a plane Monday at John Wayne Airport, the final destination of the Northwest flight that crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday in Detroit, could be difficult for many people.

"People who get on an airplane the next day (after a crash) are courageous people," he said, "but it obviously doesn't faze them. They just know they've got to do what they've got to do."

People interviewed Monday at the airport said they were traveling out of necessity. Most said they were a little frightened, but reasoned that the odds against another Northwest crash had to be astronomical.

"I figure if it's going to happen again, it's got to happen on the next airline now," said Fred Lang, 31, a Laguna Beach engineer on his way to Minneapolis.

Dick Thomas, 42, said he was just glad that the plane that crashed Sunday "isn't here to take me home." He said he was returning to Minneapolis after a weekend visit with his brother in Riverside.

Jennifer Black said she had done some soul-searching Sunday night as she watched television news accounts of the crash. On Monday, she was flying home to Cleveland on Northwest, after visiting a friend, Becky Tiravassi, in Orange. Black, 17, said she almost reached for the phone to tell her parents she would be staying a few extra days to let her nerves calm.

But Tiravassi, who was at the airport Monday to see her friend off, said that she and Black "talked about the odds" and decided they would now be on her side.

"Besides, I don't think (parents) would be too happy getting a call at 1 in the morning from a panicked child."

Monday's comparative calm was in stark contrast to the scene at the airport Sunday night, when a news media throng pushed its way to the Northwest Airlines counter with bright lights and television cameras.

One man, at the airport to pick up a friend coming in from Sacramento, asked: "Gosh, is there a celebrity coming?" After he learned of the crash in Detroit, his voice lowered as he lit a cigarette and said: "Damn, this is just so sad."

As relatives of passengers on the ill-fated flight arrived at the airport Sunday night, they were told of the crash by a Northwest employee and were escorted to an airport security office for privacy.

Northwest ticket agents would not talk. They said that they had received many telephone inquiries and suspected that most relatives would have learned the news from radio or television.

Staff writer David Reyes contributed to this story.

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