U.S. Air plane makes belly landing at Newark Airport

May 18, 2013 8:44:15 PM PDT
Dozens of people walked away unhurt after a U.S. Airways plane touched down without landing gear at Newark Liberty International Airport early Saturday.

An airline official says the flight had 34 people aboard was forced to make a belly landing after experiencing landing gear trouble.

No injuries were reported among the 31 passengers and three crew members.

The turboprop plane operated by Piedmont Airlines left Philadelphia shortly before 11 p.m. Friday and landed safely with its landing gear retracted at about 1 a.m. Saturday.

Officials say the gear came down only partially, and the plane circled Newark in a holding pattern while dumping fuel and working on the gear. After several failed, the pilot decided to pull the gear back and land the plane on its belly.

Video shows the plane touching down in a shower of sparks, but no fire was reported after the landing. Crews were waiting to douse the plane in foam.

Passengers were evacuated to the terminal by bus. US Airways is reportedly cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.

A passenger on Flight 4560, Linda Demarest of Pompton Lakes told Eyewitness News that she truly thought she might die.

"All I could think of was my kids and husband. I just sent them messages, said I love you and turned off the phone," said Demarest.

Linda says just seconds before the commuter plane touched down, the pilot gave his passengers the final warning to brace themselves.

"The pilot came on and was yelling 'crash, crash, crash' and she was yelling 'head down head down'," adds Demarest, "then we hit, you bounce and skid and you can see sparks from the window , the cabin is filled with smoke."

In 2007, an emergency landing due to faulty gear on a similar Dash-8 model twin prop commuter plane ended much differently The plane skidded off the runway in Denmark injuring 11.

Former test pilot, JP Tristani says landing a prop plane with bad landing gear is much trickier than a jet because of the propeller blades.

"The danger of the roasting blades hitting an object or breaking off and hitting fuel cells is much greater," says Tristani.

It was the text book landing by pilot and co-pilot that had 31 passengers bond instantly as friends:

"Everyone was crying and hugging and high-fiving everyone," says Demarest.