Friday, February 22, 2008


Scary Landing Brings Back a Memory

Working at home today due to an ice storm, I caught this this emergency landing in Miami by a passenger jet. The jet's nose wheel failed to go down and lock into position properly.

Flying from Knoxville to San Francisco our flight experienced a very similar nose wheel problem. We had a layover in Dallas where a plane had crashed and burned a few weeks before. As we took off from Dallas we got a great view of the burned spot where 13 people on that plane had died. (94 survived) Definitely raises the anxiety level.

Having taken and passed the FAA written test for a pilot's license as a teenager, I know a little more about the technical aspects of flying than the average person. Upon approaching San Francisco airport everything seemed normal until we were directly over runway probably no more than 50 feet off the ground. I felt the plane accelerate and immediately knew something was wrong. I braced for impact but there was none.

We climbed out over the ocean and began to circle back. After about 20 minutes the pilot finally told us that the nose wheel had not gone down and locked into position as it should but that everything was OK now. This was the same or very similar problem the plane had today.

There were several nuns on the flight and plenty of Hispanics. My now ex-wife and I are Catholic plus she was 7 months pregnant at the time. During the second approach the nuns had rosaries in hand and the rest of us made the Sign of the Cross and began to pray also. The landing went so smoothly I couldn't tell the exact moment the wheels touched the tarmac. We spontaneously broke out in applause.

Yet, to this day I wonder if the pilot knew the nose wheel wasn't down but kept trying till the last possible moment or if someone in the control tower was yelling, "Pull up! Pull up!"

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