Passengers praise pilot as ‘class act,’ say crew kept them calm in NY’s JFK Airport landing

By Frank Eltman, AP
Monday, September 27, 2010

Praise for airline crew following NY hard landing

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — The pilot and his crew who brought 60 passengers to safety in a weekend emergency landing at John F. Kennedy Airport, while sparks flew and one plane wing dragged along the tarmac, were praised Monday for their professionalism.

Pilot Jack Conroyd is a “class act,” passenger Jamie Pfeiffer, 68, said in a telephone interview from her home in Bridgewater, Conn. He and his crew “really helped to lower the panic level. They were all doing their jobs so well.”

Passenger John Predham said Conroyd was their “Capt. Sully,” referring to Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, the celebrated US Airways pilot who landed on the Hudson River in January 2009.

“If we couldn’t have Capt. Sully, thank God we had Capt. Jack,” Predham told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Sherman, Conn.

Delta Connection Flight 4951, operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, made its emergency landing at Kennedy on Saturday night after the flight crew declared an emergency with the CRJ 900 twin-engine jet’s landing gear.

An audio transcript on recorded the conversation between the cockpit crew and air traffic controllers.

Tower: What kind of gear problem is it?

Flight 4951: Our right main gear will not come down.

Tower: Roger.

Moments later, the tower asks how many people are on board.

Flight 4951: Right, we have 64 souls on board and our fuel is an hour and a half of fuel.

As the flight continues, the cockpit tells controllers: We’ve been running all the checklists and … we have not been able to get the landing gear down. Our preference would be to proceed to JFK and execute an emergency landing over there. If it’s not completely obvious, just want to confirm we are declaring an emergency.

Later, the tower tells Flight 4951: You’re clear to land. Emergency equipment will be standing by midfield as a precautionary measure.

Flight 4951 responds: Roger, it better work.

Video captured from passenger cell phone cameras recorded someone in the cockpit instructing passengers to “brace for impact.”

Moments later, a flight attendant repeatedly yelled instructions to passengers, “heads down, stay down,” as the plane landed with a thump on the Kennedy runway. Sparks can be seen off the right side of the wing before the CRJ 900 twin-engine jet abruptly comes to a stop while passengers break into applause.

All 60 passengers exited safely through the main door onto the tarmac and were bused to the terminal; they were later transported to White Plains. An investigation was under way to determine the cause of the landing gear problem.

“I don’t think I will ever forget a man saying to me, ‘I’m praying for you and I know you’re praying for me,’” said Pfeiffer, a retired psychotherapist who was returning from Atlanta where she was visiting her 94-year-old mother.

“The people were really nice to each other, and then the pilot thanked the passengers,” Pfeiffer said. “This man is a class act.”

Predham said the crew should be commended for handling a tense situation.

“It was actually very calm, considering what could have happened,” he said.

A spokesman for Atlantic Southeast Airlines said that because the investigation was ongoing, Conroyd would not be granting interviews. A telephone message left by the AP at his home in Lake Mary, Fla., was not immediately returned.


Associated Press Writer Beth Fouhy contributed to this report from New York City.

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