DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,
DXMachina
dxmachina

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Landing Sideways...

I happened to flip the channel to MSNBC just moments before they broke in with the story of the Jet Blue situation last night, and spent the next two hours or so watching the plane circle Los Angeles as it burned off some six thousand gallons of fuel (at ~$4.50/gallon) before attempting an emergency landing at LAX due to a balky and badly misaligned nose gear. Apparently when they tried to raise the gear after takeoff, it a) wouldn't retract properly, and b) locked up with the wheels pointed 90° to the direction of travel. Not good.

I flipped back and forth between MSNBC's and CNN's coverage. MSNBC had more knowledgeable reporting (i.e., Bob Hager), but the anchor on the story was that annoying ex-prosecutor woman who did nothing but ask inane questions. CNN had Paula Zahn who was doing an excellent job of juggling that story, plus stories about hurricane Rita, and the Minneapolis tornado. Three disasters for the price of one! CNN also had better expert commentary, at least while Zahn was on, including Al Haynes, who was the UAL pilot who did an amazing job of getting his almost completely disabled DC-10 down on the ground with a minimum casualties in Sioux City some years ago. I stuck with CNN until nine, when Larry King replaced Zahn as anchor. King was terrible. He clearly had no idea what he was talking about when he came on, among other things referring to some film of the of the front of the jet showing the broken gear as "stock footage."

I flipped back to MSNBC, and now they had Haynes as their on-air expert so I stuck with them through the landing. I wasn't especially worried for the passengers' safety. There have been incidents in the past where an aircraft's nose gear has failed to deploy, and the plane landed successfully. If you watch a plane land you'll notice they land on the main gear anyway, with the nose wheels not touching down until a few seconds later. In this case, it was just a matter of the pilots keeping the nose up off the ground while allowing the plane's speed to bleed off as much as possible before letting the nose gear touch. Given the way the wheels were pointed, I expected the strut to snap off, dropping the plane on its nose, but again that is easily survivable. Also, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. The biggest worry was that something would cause the plane to veer off the runway, in which case all bets were off, but it was very unlikely.

JetBlueThe whole thing went off even better than anyone expected. The plane touched down, and coasted a bit on the main gear. When the nose gear touched down, there was much smoke as the tires skidded sideways along the runway. In fact, it seemed as if the tires were acting sort of like the floor slides you put under furniture legs to protect the floor. The rearward tire then caught fire spectacularly, but it quickly burned away, leaving the plane skidding along on the naked strut. And the strut held! The plane stopped near the end of the runway, with the nose strut sitting directly on the runway's center line.

Show off...

One other thing to note. JetBlue gives each passenger their own TV set and DirectTV. The crew didn't turn the sets off until they began their appraoch to the runway, so a good chunk of the passengers were watching the commentary while they circled around the city. Some apparently found it unnerving, and many apparently only listened to the worst-case scenarios being spouted by the anchors, and were a tad panicky. I think I would have just been glued to the set, fascinated.
Tags: aviation, news
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