Malfunction forces emergency landing at NJ airport

A United Airlines Airbus 319 sits on the tarmac at Newark Liberty International Airport after making an emergency landing in Newark, N.J., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010. Landing gear problems force the flight to make an emergency landing. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, said all 53 people aboard Flight 634 from Chicago were safely evacuated, and no injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Published: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 7:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 7:26 p.m.

NEWARK, N.J. — A United Airlines flight landed with part of the plane's belly or wing striking a runway at Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday morning after the right-side landing gear failed to deploy. All the 53 people got off the plane safely.

Flight 634 from Chicago was approaching the airport just before 9:30 a.m. when the crew reported that there might be a problem with one of its landing gears.

When the aircraft landed, part of it apparently struck the runway, causing some damage to the right wing area, United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said. The extent of the damage was still being determined Sunday afternoon, and Urbanski said it was not immediately clear what caused the malfunction.

Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the Airbus 319's right main landing gear did not extend, though its nose and left main landing gear did, making for a bumpier-than-usual landing.

Several passengers told reporters that the pilot, whose name was not disclosed, did "a great job" in calmly advising them about the landing gear problems, what they would have to do to prepare themselves and then safely landing the plane.

"I've had a lot of worse landings at Newark before," said Paul Lasiuk, a 46-year-old Chicago resident. "It was unbelievably smooth."

The airline announced Sunday afternoon that it would refund the 48 passengers' fares.

The plane — a direct flight for Newark that had left Chicago about 6 a.m. local time with a five-person crew on board — remained on the third runway Sunday afternoon, as investigators inspected the aircraft.

After the crew reported the problem, Newark airport was closed for about 20 minutes, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport. Two of its three runways were reopened soon after the plane landed, but some arriving flights were still being delayed Sunday evening by about an hour.

The landing comes exactly one week after a man took advantage of a guard's absence to walk through a security checkpoint exit at Newark Liberty and say goodbye to his girlfriend, a security breach that triggered the shutdown of a busy terminal and led to major delays.

Haisong Jiang, 28, of Piscataway, N.J., was arrested Friday and faces a charge of trespassing and a fine of up to $500. He's due in court in Newark this week.

A friend of Jiang's, Ning Huang, said Saturday that he's known Jiang for years and that Jiang is "a very good person" who didn't realize the ramifications of his actions.

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