Passengers Recount Emergency Landing At Newark Liberty International Airport

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Federal officials are investigating what caused the landing gear of a United Airlines flight from Atlanta to malfunction Monday evening, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing at Newark Liberty International Airport.

No one was injured when United Airlines Flight 5124 landed on its belly just after 6 p.m. Monday. Officials said the pilot noticed the aircraft’s front landing gear wouldn’t go down as he was preparing to land.

A fly by the control tower confirmed the problem. Air traffic control recordings reveal the pilot had little choice but to land the plane on its nose.

“It’s tense, but we’re trained, and we’re skilled, and we remained as calm as possible. Our job is to keep the pilot calm and make sure everybody can do their job correctly,” said Ray Adams of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

“I would like to go ahead… at this time,” the pilot is heard saying on air traffic control recordings.

Emergency landing recordings, Part 1 (via

Emergency landing recordings, Part 2 (via

All 69 passengers on board, including an infant and four crew members, braced for a hard landing.

Passengers said the pilot’s professionalism was matched by the flight attendants.

“They were going row by row, making sure everyone knew what to do and practicing how to brace for the impact,” passenger Shellie Bill told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Passenger Steve Parowski, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., said once the pilot gave the warning he immediately began texting his sons telling them he loved them.

“We started saying prayers because we just thought it was the end, you know we really did,” Parowski told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

“Say a prayer. Tell Michael I love him. Be strong and always keep the faith,” said 16-year-old Michael Parowski, reading the text.

“Crash position, crash position, crash position, over and over again, so you really couldn’t think about anything else,” father Steve Parowski recalled. “Making sure we were all crouched down in the right safety position, for a crash position, which is tucking your body down.”

“Some of the kids were crying like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen? Are we gonna die’?” passenger Angela Nickerson said.

Emergency responders flooded the runway as the pilot brought the plane down. Once on the ground, passengers were forced to deplane using evacuation chutes.

“They did an absolutely amazing job.  They literally, I’m telling you, I have had rougher landings with a landing gear,” Bill said.

“Take him out to dinner, buy him a beer, get him a nice steak here,” Steve Parowski told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

“Thank God, thank the pilot, thank everyone that helped make that such a safe recovery,” said Michael.

Passengers on other flights had no idea what was happening, only that something was wrong as Newark halted all flights for about an hour.

“Said there was an emergency landing, sit here for a couple of hours, but it was probably and hour until we got to the gate,” said traveler Katherine Baron.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating but said as of right now, there are no plans to send a ground team to Newark.

In 2006 a nearly identical situation — involving the same airplane make and model, airline and issue — occurred on a flight from Houston to Washington D.C.

NTSB records show that accident was caused by maintenance errors.

In the years since, Shuttle America — which operates the route for United Airlines — has revised its maintenance protocols and installed new warning systems.

Please leave a comment below…

  • Sam

    Were u ever in their situation gerg
    Easier said than done

  • Greg

    I’m a pilot myself for another airline. The pilots did a good job of getting this down, but I’m completely confused as to some of their choices. First of all, they had the option of landing on any runway they wanted, and they chose 22L. The parallel runway to that, 22R, is 1000 feet longer. You can’t pound on the brakes without a nose wheel, since you might lose directional control. A long, easy landing is the best, as demonstrated years ago by JetBlue when their nose wheel malfunctioned at LAX. Why choose the shorter of the two runways with the same direction (and therefore same wind corrections, etc)? Even more confusing is their choice to stay at Newark. The biggest issue with a suspected gear up landing is maintaining directional control (staying on the runway) once you’re down. You have only asymmetrical braking to steer with when you have no nose wheel. A wider runway, as well as longer, is always better. I know they had somewhat of a fuel problem, but they should have had enough reserve and holding fuel to get to any other New York area airport with no problem. I don’t know what kind of winds they were dealing with, but if it was at all possible, runway 31L/13R at JFK is 200 feet wide and 14,500 feet long, as opposed to the runway they chose at Newark which is 150 feet wide and 10,000 feet long. The significantly longer, and much wider runway was less than 10 minutes away. I’m glad they didn’t go off the runway they chose, but if they had, much more damage would have occurred, and possibly some injuries. Not knowing their outcome, the JFK runways would have been a much safer choice. They may have made a good landing, but don’t deserve as much credit as they’re getting for their decision making. Typical inexperienced, untrained regional airline pilots.

    • dave

      maybe it’s because they were flying a small regional jet and didn’t need the extra 1000 feet that you would need for your bigger, more superior airplane.

  • Basi

    Notice that this flight was NOT operated by United Airlines. This is what happens when you sell your name to regional airlines and they cut coners or don’t train properly.

  • Republic Airways

    Chevron seal installed backwards on the nose gear actuator cylinder, Republic Airways is great

  • bob

    my bud was on this flight. he said afterwards drinks were on the house, they just had to go scoop it off the runway.

  • Tom

    thanks for your guess! That was helpful and informitive

  • Rugbyball

    My guess a maintenance issue, or lack thereof.

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