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US Airways Jet Forced To Land Early

August 7, 1998

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A US Airways plane bound for Las Vegas hit heavy turbulence Friday, forcing the pilot to land in Pittsburgh, slightly injuring 10 people and terrifying a flight attendant who began crying over the loud speaker.

Flight 623 left Philadelphia and ran into rough air 29,000 feet above Franklin County in south-central Pennsylvania, said Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Boeing 737 was carrying 124 passengers and six crew members, airline spokesman David Castelveter said.

``We were seriously out of control. It was gnarly,″ said passenger Angela Summa, 23, of San Francisco, who was headed to Las Vegas to meet friends for a birthday party.

``It felt like turbulence at first,″ she said. ``Then, all of a sudden, it was more than turbulence. The plane started shaking and we dropped a good bit. It was horrifying, it scared the life out of me.″

Ten people were hospitalized with moderate to minor injuries after the plane landed around noon at Pittsburgh International Airport. Three were released by Friday afternoon.

Castelveter said three of those injured were flight attendants.

Passengers said that shortly after the ``fasten seat belt″ sign was turned off and people stood up, the plane dropped, then rolled to the left and the right. Carts turned over, spilling food in first class.

``There was panic,″ Ms. Summa said. ``People had tears in their eyes. People were holding onto each other. They were standing in the aisle looking back to see if their families were all right.″

She comforted a little boy sitting next to her whose family was seated in first class, then panicked when the flight attendant began crying over the public address system.

``That probably made it worse,″ Ms. Summa said. ``We thought it was more than an air pocket. She was hysterical on the loudspeaker.″

Passenger Dan Malloy of Willingboro, N.J., agreed: ``It was basically just all over the place,″ he said of the plane. ``The thing that clinched it was the stewardess getting on crying.″

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