Charlotte flight forced to turn back at SC airport

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - There wasn't a big sign on the runway that said "Airport Closed," but there might as well have been after a flight to Charleston from Charlotte had to return to North Carolina.

A U.S. Airways flight was turned back to Charlotte on Wednesday night because it arrived after midnight when the runway was closed, the Post and Courier of Charleston reported Friday.

The runway at Charleston International Airport is closing between midnight and 6 a.m. through Aug. 9 for a $30 million runway repair project.

The flight was late leaving Charlotte because of lightning in the area. Scheduled to arrive in Charleston at 11:25 p.m., the plane didn't leave North Carolina until almost 11:45 p.m.

The plane was 15 miles out of Charleston when the pilot told the 66 passengers they would have to return to North Carolina.

The airport usually is open 24 hours but every airline knew about the runway repairs, said Becky Beaman, a spokeswoman for the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

"It's rare something like this would happen," she said.

Carlo Bertolini, a spokesman for Republic Airways which operated the flight for U.S. Airways, said the tower dispatcher and pilot were in communication throughout the flight.

"We thought we were going to be able to make it in time," he said. "In addition we thought the tower might remain open a little later."

Back in Charlotte, passengers got vouchers for hotel discounts and new tickets for Thursday, said Jenny Spain, a passenger returning to Charleston with her husband after two weeks in Costa Rica.

"It was kind of funny," she said. "When we landed and they said you can now use your cell phones there were a lot of cranky people on cell phones."