An airplane made an emergency landing at Newark Liberty International Airport Monday evening because of a nose gear problem, and passengers were forced to exit the plane on emergency chutes, according to authorities.
The pilot on United Airlines' Shuttle America flight 5124 from Atlanta to Newark radioed in an issue with its front wheel shortly before its scheduled touchdown at Newark Airport, according to FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac. An indicator light had gone off in the cockpit of the Embraer 170 airplane, pointing to unsafe gear.
Audio communications indicate the pilot knew the gear was not down. The pilot flew by the air traffic control tower at a low altitude so the controller could see where the nose gear was.
"That nose gear is not down," the air traffic controller confirms in the audio recordings. "You got no nose gear... Door might have opened. Saw a little bump."
A little further into communication, the pilot says to the air traffic controller, "Even if you see that nose wheel down, we're not going to know it's completely down and locked. I would like to go ahead and declare an emergency at this time. And request fire rescue when we get there, assuming we stop on the runway."
Minutes later, the air traffic controller gave the pilot the OK to land, according to Salac, and airport crews foamed the pavement on Runway 22-left in preparation for the landing.
The plane landed at about 6:40 p.m., and the nose gear collapsed upon landing.
The 69 passengers and four crew members exited on the emergency chutes and were transported to the terminal by bus, authorities said.
Passengers on arriving flights said they saw the plane grounded on the runway surrounded by foam.
"As we pulled in on the runway, on my left, I saw a plane with a bunch of police surrounding it," said Eugene Nisenker. "Grounded, with the nose touching the floor."
There were no injuries, Shuttle America said in a statement.
"Thank God there were no casualties," said Mary Brown, another flight passenger who saw the plane. "There could have been, so I hope this was red flag for them to really check on everything."
The airport was closed briefly while emergency crews responded to the scene. It has since reopened.
The incident caused a ripple effect as thousands of passengers were delayed or even detoured.
"The pilot said, we're going to Islip, we'll see what happens," said Rich Hogan, a passenger on another flight scheduled to land at Newark. "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."