I’ve been on more than one flight that’s had to make an emergency landing. The first was in the mid-1980s when my aircraft’s landing gear wouldn’t go down. Emergency crews foamed a runway as a precaution, but after circling and trying backup systems the gear went down. I still remember holding my breath.
A couple of years ago I was flying Dallas Fort-Worth – San Francisco when my American flight suffered a bird strike shortly after takeoff. These things happen all the time, and everything was handled professionally. There was a loud bang, the pilot announced we’d be returning to the airport. I’ve never made such a direct approach into DFW. With the plane’s other engine unaffected we were fine but I still held my breath until we were on the ground. We held short for an inspection around the aircraft before being allowed to return to our gate.
On Wednesday American Airlines flight AA4439 from Atlanta to New York LaGuardia, an Embraer ERJ-175 (large regional jet) operated by Republic Airways, suffered runaway trim during climb out. “Runaway trim” became a well known phenomenon over the last year as it’s associated with both Boeing 737 MAX crashes.
American Airlines EMB-175 Operated by Republic
There were only six people on board the 76 passenger aircraft. That’s just 2 passengers for Wednesday’s 9 p.m. departure. They took off from runway 9L. The crew stopped climbing at 14,000 feet and reported a runaway trim situation. They began to head back to the airport. They couldn’t get their nose down and reported a stall situation. Fighting the aircraft, they got things under control, but the plane began to climb again instead of descending.
The crew of the aircraft switched over to the co-pilot’s controls which were working properly and were cleared to land – they were back on the ground less than 20 minutes from takeoff and within 15 minutes of declaring an emergency.
Listening to the air traffic control – the pilots and ATC both did an excellent job – is eerie. Thank goodness everyone made it safely back to Atlanta. They stopped for a visual inspection by emergency crew before returning to gate T11.