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Jet Makes Belly Landing After Wheels Jam

TOM FOREMAN JR.August 2, 1989

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ A Piedmont Airlines jet carrying 100 people made an emergency landing with its left wing and engine scraping the runway today after its landing gear jammed, officials said. No injuries were reported.

A flash of flame and smoke erupted from the left wing as the jet, a new Boeing 737 en route to Charlotte from Washington, touched down at Piedmont Triad International Airport about 10:55 a.m. with its left landing gear up.

Passengers slid down emergency chutes, and ground crews sprayed foam on the engine.

″I was thinking that this might be it,″ said a passenger, Pam Schaeffer of Washington. She said she sat next to a former flight attendant who kept her informed of what the crew was doing. ″Once I was out of the plane and on the runway and far from the plane, I started to feel OK.″

Flight 1489, carrying 94 passengers and a crew of six, was to have landed at Charlotte at 9:30 a.m., the airline said.

The plane was diverted to Greensboro, the site of Piedmont’s maintenance hangar, after the instrument panel indicated the landing gear had not locked, officials said. The landing was carried live by a statewide TV network of six stations.

The pilot ″circled for better than an hour in an attempt to get all the gear down,″ said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roger Myers. The pilot got the nose wheel and right landing gear down, but not the left gear, Myers said.

Emergency vehicles lined the runway, awaiting the landing, and the airport closed to other traffic. Airline spokesman David Shipley said the pilot burned off most of his fuel to reduce the risk of fire. He said there was not enough time to foam the runway beforehand.

Before landing, the pilot touched the plane down briefly to test its landing gear, and that indicated the nose wheel and right landing gear were locked in proper position, said Piedmont spokeswoman Nancy Vaughan.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate to determine the cause of the malfunction, Myers said.

Passenger Debbie McDorman of Washington said the crew notified passengers of the problem around 9:45 a.m. and began maneuvering to free the stuck landing gear.

″They would drop and circle a couple of times to try and shake it free, or shake from side to side,″ Ms. McDorman said. ″It’s a really weird feeling.″

She said passengers were calm.

″I kind of kidded around in the beginning and then I got really scared. When they started doing the maneuvers I said, ’This is getting serious,‴ she said. But she said she believed the landing would come off without difficulty.

″I know that any pilot that’s worth his salt can land an aircraft without wheels,″ she said.

Shipley said that the plane was manufactured in November 1988. Airline records show no maintenance problems with the plane or the 737-400 series of which it is a part, he said.

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