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Jet with crippled gear lands safely in LA

Fire chief praises Airbus pilot's skill

LOS ANGELES -- A JetBlue airliner with 145 passengers and crew made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday after a malfunction turned the front landing gear sideways and forced the pilot to abort a transcontinental flight.

The safe landing at about 6:19 p.m. ended the drama that had viewers riveted to their televisions for more than two hours. Passengers on board the stricken aircraft had been able to watch the drama unfold on the satellite TV screens at every seat on board JetBlue flights.

''They cut the TV off about a half hour before we landed, but we saw shots of the plane circling and we were on the same tag line as Hurricane Rita; that was alarming," passenger Alexandra Jacobs told CNN.

Flight 292 left Burbank at 3:17 p.m., en route to JFK International Airport in New York, a JetBlue spokesman said.

''Shortly after the plane left, the pilot discovered he may have a problem with the landing gear," FAA spokesman Donn Walker said in a telephone interview.

Initially diverted to Long Beach Airport, the pilot was then told to land at the Los Angeles airport, which has longer runways. The jet circled for several hours, dumping fuel over the Pacific Ocean.

The plane seemed to float through the air as it made its final approach. The pilot balanced the craft on its rear wheels, keeping the damaged front gear away from the ground for as long as possible.

The front gear was the last part to touch down, its tires shredding and its twisted wheels giving off flames from the friction. But the fuselage held true, and the Airbus 320 stopped on the runway as emergency vehicles approached.

''The pilot did an outstanding job," Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Lou Roupoli said. No injuries were reported, he said. ''Just a big hallelujah and a lot of clapping."

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