Runway reopens after failed takeoff at Philadelphia International Airport

PHILADELPHIA - March 14, 2014

The airport said the runway where the accident happened reopened at 8:30 a.m. Friday, some 14 hours after the incident.

The damaged Airbus A320 finally arrived at an airport maintenance hangar early Friday morning, after engineers spent the night inspecting the jet on the runway where the incident occurred.

Two minor injuries were reported from the accident, which happened at 6:38 p.m. Thursday.

Authorities say U.S. Airways flight 1702 was heading west on Runway 27 Left when a tire blew and the nose of the 70-ton aircraft hit the runway.

A U.S. Airways spokesperson said, in a statement:

"Initial reports indicate Flight 1702 from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale blew a tire on takeoff and the pilot elected to abort takeoff."

The statement continued: "The plane was briefly in the air before turning back."

As the investigation got underway Friday morning, engineers focused on the failure and collapse of the jet's front landing gear.

According to experts, a tire blow-out is enough to cause such a collapse.

"When one tire fails, it puts all the weight then on the other tire," aviation consultant Jim Brengle told Action News. "And that can create an asymmetric situation where there's a high-speed shiver or shimmy.... In this case, it obviously broke the front drag brace, which caused the entire gear to collapse and left the aircraft on its nose."

Brengle also said pilots are trained to react to blow-outs by aborting takeoffs, which is what U.S. Airways said happened Thursday night.

Andy Stern of the Kline Spector law firm is a pilot and aviation attorney. He expects the probe at this stage will focus on many issues. Chief among them, maintenance records and the failed tire.

"The primary thing comes to mind is that this is going to be a maintenance issue. Ordinarily these tires don't just blow out. This is an unusual situation, so they are going to be looking at the records, they are going to be looking to see when was the last time the tire was repaired or replaced," said Andy Stern.

Shortly after the plane hit the ground, pictures from Action News crews on the scene showed the plane with its front end on the ground with emergency chutes deployed.

149 passengers and 5 crew members were evacuated from the plane. One minor injury and one illness were reported, the Philadelphia Fire Department said. There were no serious injuries.

Smoke could be seen coming from one of the engines.

Video of the incident posted to Twitter showed people running from the plane.

One passenger on the plane, Dennis Fee, said it was "very windy, and when the plane took off the nose of the plane went back down, hitting the runway. We were airborne, then struck back down by the nose."

"It was quite a shock," said passenger Debbie Grant, "because the impact was very strong. We really didn't know what was happening. Basically we just moved with the flow. People had gotten up because there was a smell of smoke."

"There really are no words," said passenger Devon Lassiter. "I mean, everything went into such a panic at the time. I never experienced anything like that before in my life. The plane actually lifted off and hit the ground twice. So in that time I think people's lives were flashing before their eyes. It was just a lot."

Emergency responders sprayed protective foam around parts of the plane because hydraulic fluid was leaking from it, but no jet fuel leaked, said police, who praised the actions of the airline crew for getting the passengers off the plane safely.

Police said they erected barriers to try to shield the passengers from the wind and put some women and children in their vehicles to keep them warm.

"When we did get out, and had cleared the plane and were off in the field to the side and you looked back at the plane, you could see that the landing gear on the nose had pretty much collapsed," Larry Grant said. "So the fact that [the pilot] was able to get this plane under control knowing that he had a collapsed gear was just amazing."

A number of passengers finally arrived in Fort Lauderdale at about 2:20 a.m. Friday.

The airport's four runways were shut down for about 35 minutes, police said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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