A large prop plane that circled Tucumcari for about a half hour Tuesday night left residents wondering what was happening in the airways above.
“It was out of the ordinary,” said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry.
There were at least seven callers to city dispatch office, Cherry said.
“I thought it was trying to burn off fuel,” said resident Tommy Bauler. “I didn’t know what it was. It was pretty odd that it would fly a tight circle 20 to 30 times over Tucumcari. I called Cannon (Air Force Base) and they didn't know what it was.”
According to Steve Stephenson, airport manager, who contacted the Federal Aviation Administration, it was an AC-130, four-engine plane that was being used in refueling exercises by the Air Force, Cherry said.
“It was in a holding pattern over the city,” Cherry said.
Ranchers had seen them earlier in the day, he said.
However, because city rescue and law enforcement were not sure if the plane was in trouble, the Tucumcari airport runway lights were turned on.
“We tried to contact them by radio, but couldn't because they're on a military frequency,” Cherry said.
Calls were also made to the New Mexico State Police, Cherry said.
The plane flew over the city between approximately 9:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.