Passengers have lucky escape as plane crashes shortly before take-off at Philadelphia’s international airport

Witnesses saw a tyre on the landing gear blow and debris penetrate one of its two engines

Nearly 150 passengers aboard a USAirways flight at Philadelphia’s international airport appeared to have had a very lucky escape after their plane crashed shortly before take-off, seemingly after a tyre burst on the Airbus 320 and parts of it were sucked into one engine.

Early reports of the circumstances of the crash remained sketchy, but video and photographs showed the crippled plane after the incident, stuck on the runway at sharp forward pitch, its tail high in the air and inflatable slides deployed from all the aircraft doors. One runway at the airport remained closed as the crippled airplane blocked it. Other runways remained viable and the airport ordered only a brief ground stop for traffic.

While USAirways had yet to comment officially, witnesses said that trouble started when the plane was hurtling down the runway and a tyre on the front gear blew and debris penetrated one of its two engines, causing it to smoke. It was apparently the manoeuvres taken by the pilots to bring the plane to a rapid halt even as it traveled at high speed that subsequently caused the front gear to collapse.

First word from the airport was that three passengers were injured in the evacuation procedure but none of the injuries were thought to be serious. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board are headed to Philadelphia to investigate the incident.

Indeed, it seemed likely that there will be praise for the cockpit and passenger crew for averting what might have been a major disaster. It was debris from the runway flying into one of the engines of an Air France Concorde in July 2000 that caused it crash after take-off killing everyone on board. That accident eventually led to the retirement of all Concorde supersonic aeroplanes, including those operated by British Airways.

“Oh my God, oh my God, the plane is on fire, oh my God, my plane has crashed,” one distraught and panicked passenger was heard saying on a selfie video she took as she ran away from the aircraft across the airfield.  It did not seem the aircraft ever ignited, in spite of the heavy smoke seen trailing from the engine that was struck by the debris.

There were 149 passengers on the plane, Flight 1702, as well as five crew members. It was bound for Fort Lauderdale in Florida and was due to leave Philadelphia at 6.30pm on a very gusty and extremely cold, though blue-sky, evening.

USAirways, which recently agreed to be merged into American Airlines, is still remembered for the so-called ‘Miracle on the Hudson five years ago in January, when another plane in its Airbus fleet lost power after being struck by birds after taking off from New York’s La Guardia Airport and making an emergency and safe landing on the Hudson River alongside Manhattan. The captain of that flight, Chesley Sullenberger, became a national hero.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine