Sparks fly during emergency landing at JFK

Delta Connection Flight 4951 on the runway at JFK Airport following an emergency landing on Sept. 25, 2010 (Eyewitness News)

September 27, 2010 3:16:42 AM PDT
With sparks flying, a Delta Connection flight made an emergency landing at JFK Airport on Saturday night.

Flight 4951, operated by Atlantic Southeastern Airlines, originated in Atlanta and was scheduled to land at White Plains, New York. The plane was carrying 60 passengers and a crew of four.

The right gear of the plane was stuck and would not deploy, the pilot told air traffic control, according to a recording captured on the website, which is devoted to controller talk.

"For a few seconds I was like what if we don't make it," Allesandro Albero said.

Seconds before, the pilot told all 60 passengers on board that he had to make an emergency landing at JFK Airport.

"The lady in front of me, across, I see her get teary immediately and she's reaching for her husband to hold his hand," Chase Benzenberg said. "People are praying, information is just coming out slowly, everyone assumes the worst."

Chase and Alessandro were both sitting in aisle seats videotaping the hair-raising landing Saturday evening.

Alessandro says things were just not right the second they took off from Atlanta heading to Westchester County Airport.

"I said, that's an interesting click, never heard that before on a plane. You hear tons of different sounds but that was an awkward tick but thought nothing of it," Albero said.

Not until he learned the pilot had to make this emergency landing because the right gear was stuck.

"We're picturing no landing gear, just sliding and I've seen movies, thinking we're going to flip," Benzenberg said.

The men say the pilot circled over JFK several times.

"They took many routes, come back, climb back up again and go up," Benzenberg said.

"We're saying is he missing the landing? Does he not know where the airport is? Key was to keep it light because what else are you going to do? Curl up in a ball and hope for the best," Albero said.

They hoped they wouldn't have to land in the water, as some passengers feared, and hoped they would survive.

"I texted messaged my girlfriend and told her I love her and tell all my friends that I love them too, just in case because the landing gear was not working," Benzenberg said.

The pilot eventually landed the plane safely at 8:20 p.m.

Video captured by the two men showed sparks flying as the plane landed, and a flight attendant can be heard yelling "heads down, stay down" again and again. The crowd erupts into applause as the plane comes to a safe stop.

"I could feel the vibration, I could feel it bumping," passenger Jamie Pfeiffer of Bridgewater, Conn., told the Journal News of White Plains about the right wing scraping the ground during the rough landing. "I heard a guy behind me say he saw sparks. The pilot was just awesome."

No injuries were reported.

Atlantic Southeastern Airlines spokesman Jarek Beem says all passengers exited safely through the main door and were bused to the terminal where they were being accommodated by Delta representatives.

He says the airline was working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the landing gear problem.

"We're still alive, so let's do what we want to do," Albero said. "Let's do what we can do, live every day."