US Airways plane blows tire on takeoff in Philadelphia, passengers evacuated

Posted at 7:33 AM, Mar 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-14 07:33:38-04

(CNN) — A US Airways plane blew a tire during takeoff Thursday evening at Philadelphia’s airport, an airline spokesman said, with witnesses recalling seeing the plane “bounce” before screeching to a halt.

Citing initial reports, US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said the commercial airliner’s pilot decided to abort takeoff after the tire issue. Philadelphia International Airport tweeted, and photos indicate, that the plane’s nose gear collapsed.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said two women from the plane were transported to the city’s Methodist Hospital, one with a minor injury and the other with a minor illness.

“This is a good time,” Ayers said, referring to the response and the fact things turned out as well as they did. “It worked out alright.”

Flight 1702 was scheduled to take off at 5:50 p.m. and arrive in Fort Lauderdale about three hours later, according to US Airways’ website, though Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said the incident took place around 6:25 p.m.

Watching from a nearby plane, Dave Olinger said, “I saw the plane come down with its landing gear (hitting) the ground abnormally hard and it bounced back into the air. Then it continued to try to land and it went out of my view as I saw a massive cloud of dust come up from behind it.”

A witness in an airport terminal, posting to the online travel community, reported seeing the plane “bounce twice on takeoff.”

Firefighters spotted smoke coming from one engine, but no fire. Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Loesch said crews sprayed “a protective foam blanket” around where “hydraulic fluid … was leaking from the front landing gear,” saying this was only done as a precaution.

Images from the airport afterward showed the plane pitched forward, but otherwise upright, and surrounded by flashing emergency vehicles. One showed the plane at a standstill as some people left from an emergency slide and others got out on the wing.

“So my plane just crashed,” tweeted one apparent passenger. A short time later and minutes before taking a selfie at the scene, she added, “I almost just died.”

The 149 passengers and five crew members who had been aboard the Airbus A320 quickly got off, then were moved about 400 yards away into a field, according to Loesch. They were surrounded by police and fire vehicles to block the wind, with women and children getting into these vehicles to stay warm in temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.

“Most people were complaining about being cold,” Loesch said.

Departing and incoming flights at the Pennsylvania airport were temporarily halted. Some of them resumed around 6:55 p.m., Peters said, though one runway remained closed for some time after that.

The incident caused significant travel headaches, and not just for those on Flight 1702. The airport noted there were departure delays of about one hour, with airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica saying arrival delays stretched up to two hours.

According to Joe Taney, the vice president of operations in Philadelphia for American/US Airways, Flight 1702 passengers were bused to the terminal and taken to one of the airline’s Admirals Clubs, which is typically for “preferred members.”

They remained there for some time, before they could collect items they had left on the plane. Another aircraft was arranged to take them to Fort Lauderdale. That plane hadn’t left by 10:30 p.m., though it was supposed to head out soon.

“There’s maybe a couple that chose not to go, which is fine …,” Taney said. “But overall the majority of people are choosing to go on that extra (flight).”

CNN’s Aaron Cooper and Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

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