NEW YORK (1010 WINS/CBS 2) — Captain Jack Conroyd, the pilot who saved 64 lives in a scary landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport over the weekend, is being hailed a hero. But new questions are being raised over the plane’s mechanical failure.
No one was hurt Saturday evening when Delta Connection Flight 4951, operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, was rerouted to Kennedy after Conroyd informed the control tower the right landing gear was not working.
CBS 2 learned Monday the Series 900 plane, which had been diverted from its intended destination in White Plains, was the subject of an FAA Airworthiness Directive.
The directive dated July 1 of this year sought to correct what it called “an unsafe condition” due to a “landing gear retraction problem” cause by a “relative misalignment” of parts in several jet models made by the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, including the jet involved in this case, CBS 2’s John Metaxas reported.
As a result, the FAA said the issue could potentially result in “full landing gear extension that may not be achievable.”
At this point, it is unknown whether the problem that forced the pilot to bring the plane down with sparks flying was the same one outlined in the FAA directive or whether Delta Airlines was in compliance with it.
“To say there’s going to be an emergency landing, it was tense, it was very tense,” Chase Benzenberg, who captured the drama on his cell phone camera, said.
As the plane hit the ground, passengers could see the sparks out of their window. Conroyd balanced the jet on the left wheel, then eased it onto the right wing to slow it down and safely brought it to a stop.
The passengers cheered Conroyd after the landing and he praised them for staying calm. “Thank you so much bless you all,” Conroyd told the passengers.
Conroyd’s mother told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera that it was just like her son to thank the passengers.
“He has a big, big heart and that’s the way he is,” Hazel Conroyd said.
Within an hour of landing the jet, the captain left a message on her answering machine: “I’m fine, all the passengers are fine, I have to go.”
All the passengers exited safely through the main door onto the tarmac and were bused to the terminal, said Atlantic Southeast Airlines spokesman Jarek Beem. The airline was working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the landing gear problem, he said.
Conroyd’s mother said the passengers couldn’t have had a better pilot who has 20 years experience as a naval commander and a Masters degree in aeronautical engineering.
The pilot lives in Florida with his wife and two children.