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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Emergency Landing in Newark: Plane Lands on Belly

Wasif Chudhary

Newark Liberty International Airport is operating normally this morning, resuming standard operations after flights were briefly halted last night because of a emergency landing by a United Express flight from Atlanta, The Associated Press reports.

The flight landed with a malfunctioning front landing gear, leading to a "tense" emergency landing around 7 p.m. ET that culminated with passengers exiting the Embraer E170 jet on its emergency exit chutes, The New York Times reports.

The incident began when an indicator light alerted pilots to a potential landing-gear problem on United Flight 5124, operated by United Express affiliate Shuttle America.

The cockpit crew requested a flyby with the tower, which confirmed that the front landing gear did not appear to have deployed properly. The pilots declared an emergency and began to make preparations to land.

Relying on eyewitness accounts from Flight 5124 passengers, The Star-Ledger of Newark offers this account of the mood on the plane just before it landed:

Before attempting to land, passengers said the plane circled New York, with flight crew going row by row instructing passengers how to brace themselves for the arrival. During a flyby over Newark Airport passengers could make out the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, which included fire trucks from Newark Fire Department and the airport, lined up on the runway. They had been told the front landing gear would not deploy.

FULL STORY: Passengers face scary emergency landing at Newark Airport (The Star-Ledger)

The inside of the cabin was mostly calm as the plane made its final approach, said (passenger Angela Nickerson). Though there were nervous laughs by some, declarations never to fly again by others and the sobbing of children wondering aloud if they were going to die, she said.

With other runway activity halted and emergency crews awaiting the its arrival, Flight 5124 made its emergency landing. The rear landing gear deployed properly, and the pilots glided as long as possible with the nose up before gradually easing it down to the runway

The front gear did not properly deploy because of a "hydraulic malfunction," but the plane safely "skidded to a halt," according to CBS News.

The Times describes the scene, writing "after the landing, the aircraft lay on its belly on the runway, which was covered with foam."

The Record of Hackensack, N.J., says there were 69 passengers (including one infant) as well as four crew members. All exited via emergency exit chutes, but none were injured, Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, says to the Record.

Many passengers say they were shaken by the ordeal, according to media reports from the scene. One passenger -- Steve Parowski of Franklin Lakes, N.J. – tells the Star-Ledger he was frightened enough to "just sent a text to my sons letting them know that I loved them."

In the end, however, passengers praised the pilots and cabin crew for their handling of the situation.

"Honestly, I've been in rougher landings when we had landing gear," passenger Nickerson says to the Times.

But while Flight 5124 felt the most dramatic impact, MSNBC notes "the incident caused a ripple effect as thousands of passengers were delayed or even detoured" as Newark briefly halted flight activity because of the emergency landing.

"The pilot said, we're going to Islip, we'll see what happens," Rich Hogan, a passenger on another flight scheduled to land at Newark, says to MSNBC. "(We) landed at Islip and stayed there for half an hour. They opened back up Newark, and we took off from Islip and came into Newark. We were about an hour and a half late."

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