The UMass men's basketball team had to make an emergency landing in Albany after its chartered airplane from Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Mass., to Olean, N.Y., had smoke in the cockpit Tuesday afternoon.
The Minutemen were headed to western New York to face St. Bonaventure for Wednesday's scheduled game.
"I was sitting in the first row seat and I smelled something strange," said UMass coach Derek Kellogg by phone from Albany's airport. "The pilot came on about 10 minutes into the flight and said they were having problems and we had to make an emergency landing in Albany and that there was smoke in the cockpit. There was a strange odor. I tried to make sure the guys were calm and the crew did a good job of keeping everyone calm."
Kellogg said the descent was normal, but there was definitely concern from the people on the plane. He said there was nervousness, but "Thank God, we landed safely."
"When we landed and saw 10-15 fire trucks your first thought is that this was much more serious than you thought," Kellogg said.
UMass spokesperson Jason Yellin said, "Players were worried. There was definitely fear. I've never been on a plane that had to make an emergency landing."
Yellin said he immediately thought of the 10-year anniversary of the Oklahoma State plane crash that occurred on Jan. 27, 2001, killing 10 members of the Cowboys' traveling party, including two players. Former UMass coach Travis Ford is now the head coach at Oklahoma State and will help honor the victims and their families when the Cowboys play host to Texas on Wednesday night.
The Minutemen got a new charter plane, the same one that had just taken Villanova to Providence, to fly to Albany and then continue onward to Olean.
Kellogg said the Minutemen considered busing for the nearly six-hour drive to Olean from Albany but opted to wait for the second plane.
"Some coaches might be angry that we're not getting to the site until really late," Kellogg said. "I'm just glad we're OK. We can be here for a while."
Kellogg tweeted after midnight Wednesday morning that the team had landed safely, "Wheels down. We have landed in Bradford for our game at St Bona. thanks for all the well wishes! Go #UMass!"
The Minutemen play the Bonnies on Wednesday in an Atlantic 10 regular-season game.