HOUSTON (WPVI) -- The NTSB is investigating the emergency landing of US Airways jet heading to Houston from Philadelphia.
The damaged US Airways jet, with its defective nose gear locked in place, was towed off runway 27 in Houston Tuesday morning to a cargo pad, where it can be fully examined.
There were tense moments Monday night when the non-stop flight from Philadelphia called Air Traffic Control on its approach to Houston Airport with a message about the then non-functioning nose gear.
In an audio recording, the crew can be heard telling Air Traffic Control, "Yeah...we're in a...we're not sure if the gear is down or not...Can we come by? Can you see us at about 1,500?..."
The visual assessment was not good.
David Hebert from the Houston Airport System explains, "They did a couple of turns around the airport airspace, talked to the FAA tower, tried to get visual confirmation that the nose gear was, in fact, inoperable. Unfortunately it wasn't working properly. So the airline talked to the pilots and they made the determination to go ahead and do the landing without the benefit of the nose gear."
While rare, pilots do train for such landings.
Onboard passengers were told to prepare.
Jeff Boulton was one of those passengers. He tells us, "[The pilot] announced he was going to make an emergency landing and that everybody would have to kind of brace on impact."
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A camera captured video of the jet gently settling on its main gear. The plane's bright landing light is then overwhelmed by a shower of sparks as the plane's aluminum nose skids along the paved runway.
Boulton says, "We touched down. It was smooth. We came to a stop. There were some sparks and things flying when I looked out the window, and smoke and you could smell kind of burning rubber. But we slid to a stop."
As emergency crews surrounded the inelegant, nose down airliner, more than 50 passengers and crew scrambled out of emergency exits to safety.
Only one minor injury was reported as a result of the situation.
STATEMENT FROM AMERICAN AIRLINES
As for what created the emergency, that will be investigated by the FAA and the NTSB.
The nature of these investigations normally take some time. So we may be months before we know what caused the landing gear to malfunction.