Runways reopen at LaGuardia after plane nose gear collapse

Runways reopen at LaGuardia after plane nose gear collapse

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Photo courtesy Simrin Player Photo courtesy Simrin Player
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

By VERENA DOBNIK

NEW YORK (AP) --LaGuardia Airport fully reopened Tuesday, a day after the collapse of a plane's front landing gear sent it skidding along the tarmac and temporarily closed the airport.

The nose gear of Southwest Airlines flight 345 arriving from Nashville, Tennessee, collapsed Monday right after the plane touched down on the runway, officials said.

"When we got ready to land, we nosedived," said a passenger, Sgt. 1st Class Anniebell Hanna of the South Carolina National Guard.

Ten passengers were treated at the scene, and six were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, said Thomas Bosco, acting director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the area airports. The six crew members were taken to another hospital for observation.

Bosco said there was no advance warning of any possible problem before the landing.

He said the nose gear of the plane collapsed when it landed at 5:40 p.m., and "the aircraft skidded down the runway on its nose and then veered off and came to rest in the grass area."

He said the collapse closed the airport for more than an hour. Both of the airport's runways were back in use by Tuesday morning, a Port Authority spokesman said, and the plane was being moved to a hangar.

Dallas-based Southwest said 150 people were on the flight, while the Port Authority said the total was 149.

The flight was delayed leaving Nashville. Passengers heard an announcement saying "something was wrong with a tire," said Hanna, 43. She and some family members were coming to New York for a visit.

When the plane landed, "I hit my head against the seat in front of me," she said. "I hit hard."

The nose of the plane was "completely down on the ground," said Richard Strauss, who was on a nearby plane waiting to take off. "It's something that I've never seen before. It's bizarre."

Emergency crews were seen spraying foam toward the front end of the plane on the tarmac.

A rear stairwell or slide could be seen extending from the Southwest flight, said Strauss, who owns a Washington public relations firm. His plane, which was about 100 yards from the Southwest flight, wasn't allowed to taxi back to the gate, he said.

The Port Authority said the passengers exited the plane by using chutes. Hanna said she was among the first to get off the plane, and could smell something burning when she got down to the tarmac. The passengers were put on a bus and taken to the terminal.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating, as is the National Transportation Safety Board.

Bobby Abtahi, an attorney trying to catch a flight to Dallas, was watching from the terminal and heard a crowd reacting.

"I heard some people gasp and scream. I looked over and saw sparks flying at the front of the plane," he said.

The landing gear collapse came 16 days after Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco's airport, killing two Chinese teenagers; a third was killed when a fire truck ran over her while responding to the crash, authorities said. Dozens of people were injured in that landing, which involved a Boeing 777 flying from South Korea.

Longtime pilot Patrick Smith, author of "Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel. Questions, Answers, and Reflections" and AskthePilot.com, said landing gear issues are not high on the list of worries for pilots.

"From a pilot's perspective, this is nearly a non-issue," he said. "They make for good television, but this is far down the list of nightmares for pilots."

The FAA said that flights headed to LaGuardia were held at their origin for several hours, according to NYCAviation.

The NTSB has sent an investigator to "assess the damage" and gather more information, according to the board's Twitter account.

Southwest said it is cooperating with authorities.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the response by the Port Authority and airport staff.

"We are all grateful that there were no fatalities and do not appear to be any serious injuries resulting from the collapse of this flight's landing gear," Cuomo said in a statement. "I commend the actions of the Port Authority personnel and all emergency workers who assisted with the safe evacuation of Flight 345's passengers and crew."

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