Ten Sedona Boy Scouts were called to serve when their flight to Phoenix was forced to make an emergency landing in Flagstaff on Sunday, July 25.
The boys were on board an Allegiant Air jet traveling from Billings, Mont., to Phoenix, along with three supervising adults, when the pilot came on the public address system and told them she had to take the airplane down in Flagstaff. One of the airplane’s engines had shut down.
“We weren’t expecting this at all,” Boy Scout Kevin Schweiss said.
Schweiss was on board with his father, Patrick Schweiss, and Boy Scouts Walter Spokes, Jason Lionberger, Paul Zenovitch, Joseph Remy, Tanner Rauch, Peter Hoyle, Chas Rescigno, Ethan Tedrick and Jake Ramirez. Patrick Schweiss, Walt Spokes and Randy Conilogue were the three adult chaperones.
The boys had been in Idaho at Island Park Boy Scout Camp and were on their way back from learning the very skills they would use to help other passengers.
“This is actually what we train for,” Kevin Schweiss said. “You don’t ever think you’d have to use it.”
After the pilot announced the early landing, Schweiss said the plane came down fast.
“They basically just dropped us into Flagstaff,” Schweiss said. “We were up in the air and next thing we were on the ground.”
Patrick Schweiss also described an abrupt end to what Kevin Schweiss called a scary experience.
“I’ve never seen a plane stop so fast in my entire life,” Patrick Schweiss said.
After the plane landed, the flight crew immediately began calling, “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate,” which signaled to passengers to get off as quickly as possible and leave their belongings behind.
Passengers slid down the emergency slide and some, including the Schweisses, jumped from the airplane wing.
From there, passengers ran to a nearby open field.
“We didn’t know if the plane was going to explode,” Patrick Schweiss said. He and his son were near the end of the line inside the airplane and could see passengers take off running once they reached the ground.
After the leaders gathered the Boy Scouts in the field, Spokes said they were approached by the flight crew. The boys were in uniform signaling to the flight crew they were trained to help in emergency situations.
“It was really kind of amazing to see them all working without being told what to do,” Spokes said. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do without panicking.”
They had a mission and didn’t get too excited in an extremely stressful situation, he said.
The Boy Scouts took first-aid kits provided by the flight crew and bandaged anyone who had injured themselves during evacuation or while running to the field.
Spokes said his 17-year-old son, Walter Spokes, carried an elderly lady across the runway to the field because she couldn’t make it on her own.
“They are really heroes today,” Patrick Schweiss said. “I’ve never been so proud of a group of boys in my entire life.”
After everyone was safe, Schweiss said he broke down in tears because he realized what had just happened.
“I was trying to be a dad and trying to be strong,” Schweiss said. He kept hugging his son and saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”