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NYC airport fully reopens after hard landing when plane's front landing gear collapses

By Verena Dobnik

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 23 2013 12:35 p.m. MDT

A southwest airlines plane rests on the tarmac after what officials say was a nose gear collapse during a landing at LaGuardia Airport, Monday, July 22, 2013, in New York. The Federal Aviation Administration says the plane landed safely. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

John Minchillo, Associated Press

NEW YORK — A New York City airport is fully operating again following the hard landing of a Southwest Airlines jet a day earlier.

A spokesman for the agency that runs LaGuardia Airport says the airport's second runway reopened Tuesday morning. The other runway had reopened Monday.

The front landing gear of Southwest Airlines flight 345 arriving from Nashville, Tenn., collapsed Monday right after the plane touched down on the runway, officials said.

Dallas-based Southwest says 150 people were on board.

The plane is being moved to a nearby hangar.

The FAA is investigating, as is the National Transportation Safety Board.

Thomas Bosco, acting director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the area airports, said the nose gear of the plane collapsed when it landed at 5:40 p.m., and "the aircraft skidded down the runway on its nose and then veered off and came to rest in the grass area."

He said there was no advance warning of any possible problem before the landing.

Bosco said the collapse closed the airport for more than an hour. One runway was being used again around 7 p.m., and a Port Authority spokesman said a crane loaded the plane onto a flatbed Tuesday to take it to a hangar, freeing the other runway for use later Tuesday morning.

Dallas-based Southwest said there were 150 people on the flight, while the Port Authority said the total was 149.

The flight was delayed leaving Nashville. Passengers heard an announcement saying "something was wrong with a tire," said a passenger, Sgt. 1st Class Anniebell Hanna, 43, of the South Carolina National Guard.

At LaGuardia, "when we got ready to land, we nosedived," she said. She and some family members were coming to New York for a visit.

"I hit my head against the seat in front of me," she said. "I hit hard."

The nose of the plane was "completely down on the ground," said Richard Strauss, who was on a nearby plane waiting to take off. "It's something that I've never seen before. It's bizarre."

Emergency crews were seen spraying foam toward the front end of the plane on the tarmac.

A rear stairwell or slide could be seen extending from the Southwest flight, said Strauss, who owns a Washington public relations firm. His plane, which was about 100 yards from the Southwest flight, wasn't allowed to taxi back to the gate, he said.

The Port Authority said the passengers exited the plane by using chutes. Hanna said she was among the first to get off the plane, and could smell something burning when she got down to the tarmac. The passengers were put on a bus and taken to the terminal.

The FAA is investigating, as is the National Transportation Safety Board.

Bobby Abtahi, an attorney trying to catch a flight to Dallas, was watching from the terminal and heard a crowd reacting.

"I heard some people gasp and scream. I looked over and saw sparks flying at the front of the plane," he said.

The landing gear collapse came 16 days after Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco's airport, killing two Chinese teenagers; a third was killed when a fire truck ran over her while responding to the crash, authorities said. Dozens of people were injured in that landing, which involved a Boeing 777 flying from South Korea.

Longtime pilot Patrick Smith, author of "Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel. Questions, Answers, and Reflections" and AskthePilot.com, said landing gear issues are not high on the list of worries for pilots.

"From a pilot's perspective, this is nearly a non-issue," he said. "They make for good television, but this is far down the list of nightmares for pilots."

Associated Press writers Amanda Barrett, Deepti Hajela and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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