On a return trip to the coastal marine base Camp Lejeune, three marine Osprey aircrafts landed at the airport around 3:15 p.m. Thursday after an indicator light came on in one of the aircraft, said Kimble Wallace, manager of the airport .
“It was not an emergency, but they wanted to check it out so they called to land,” Wallace said.
Victoria Ekstrand , an assistant professor at the UNC School of Journalism and a resident of Coker Hills neighborhood near the airport, said the aircraft were flying at an unusually low altitude and barely above the tops of her pine trees.
She said the aircraft were so low she could see the propellers and the landing gear.
Ekstrand said usually only small propeller planes fly over her house, and normally only on the weekends.
“It was loud. Insanely loud,” she said. “They’re never that low. Never.”
After five minutes, the two other aircraft took off and circled at an altitude of about 3,000 feet while the other Osprey checked to see if it was able to return to Lejeune, he said.
The two circling aircraft were later called back to Lejeune to conserve fuel. After 58 minutes on the ground, the third Osprey was cleared to return to the camp, Wallace said.
“There was never an emergency and traffic at Horace Williams Airport was never disrupted,” Wallace said.
University officials have long tried to close Chapel Hill’s nearly 90-year-old airport to make way for the University’s proposed satellite campus, Carolina North .
The airport was supposed to close on Aug. 1 , according to an early budget from the N.C. General Assembly. But its existance was preserved after the budget was revised.
Ekstrand said she called the police after she heard the low-flying aircraft and was called back by an officer at the scene a few minutes later.
Both Lt. Josh Mecimore of the Chapel Hill Police Department and Capt. Chris Atack of the Carrboro Police Department said they didn’t have officers respond to any calls at the airport.
“I was told it didn’t happen in our city limits,” Mecimore said.
Ekstrand said an officer she spoke to was not informed about the low-flying incoming Ospreys.
In what appeared to be an emergency situation, Ekstrand said she was surprised the town was unaware of an Osprey aircraft being forced to land.
“I was surprised police didn’t know. This is post-9/11,” she said. “I want my police to know.”