A commercial airliner with 50 passengers and three crew members aboard made an emergency landing Thursday at Metro Airport because of landing gear failure.
There were no injuries, airport spokesman Jim Caldwell said.
Airport maintenance employees worked into the night to repair the Delta Connection jet and move it from the runway, Caldwell said. Incoming flights were diverted to either Lafayette or New Orleans.
Caldwell said late Thursday that the plane was removed from the runway around 9:30 p.m. and most Friday morning flights were still scheduled to fly.
He encouraged passengers to keep checking on their flights.
The craft’s left wheel would not drop down, but the pilot was able to keep the left wing tip up while slowing the jet to a safer landing speed, Caldwell said. The wing did not separate from the fuselage.
“He did such a great job slowing it down,” Caldwell said. The Delta pilot was not immediately identified.
Airport security and fire detail followed the plane down the runway after it landed, Caldwell said. The wheels under the right wing and nose of the jet functioned normally, he said.
The 50 passengers were evacuated and held inside the airport terminal before being given their luggage and allowed to leave, Caldwell said.
“They got them out of there very quickly,” Caldwell said.
Quentin Gunther, of Watson, a passenger aboard Delta Flight 5058, said the jet was on approach to Metro Airport when it suddenly veered and flew over the Mississippi River toward the Brusly-Addis area.
“I knew when that happened that something was wrong,” Gunther said, adding the pilot then informed the passengers the plane was having a problem and that they would hear the landing gear going up and down a lot.
Gunther said the craft circled the Baton Rouge area for some time, with the pilot repeatedly running the landing gear up and down, and while apparently burning off fuel.
Another passenger, Keisha Herron of Chicago, said the aircraft circled the area for more than an hour.
At one point, the flight attendant told passengers sitting near emergency exits to make sure they were ready to help with evacuating the plane in an emergency landing, Gunther said. The attendant also went through the cabin instructing passengers in preparing and bracing for an eventual emergency landing.
“The pilot did a really good job (with the landing),” Gunther said. “He did an excellent, excellent job.”
Gunther said a couple seconds after the plane touched down, the landing gear on the left side of the plane must have collapsed and the wing hit the ground. The plane came to rest several hundred yards from the terminal.
Ultimately, the emergency exits were not used and the passengers were evacuated through the front of the plane and down a short stairway. Officials used a variety of vehicles, including an EMS unit, to take passengers to the terminal building where they were gathered in a holding room.
Herron was coming to Baton Rouge from Chicago for her younger sister’s bridal shower on Saturday. She said the situation went smoothly — the flight crew performed well, and most of the passengers remained calm. Herron said she saw only one passenger get emotional during the ordeal.
The Delta Connection airliner, flight 5058 from Atlanta, made landed about 4:35 p.m., said Jarek Beem, a spokesman for Atlantic Southeast Airlines in Atlanta that operates Delta Connection flights.
The plane was scheduled to leave Atlanta at 1:25 p.m. and land in Baton Rouge at 2:19 p.m., Beem said. However, the flight was delayed and did not leave until 3:09 p.m..
Atlantic Southeast Airlines has contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the cause of the landing gear failure, Beem said.
It is uncertain if the aircraft has a previous history of mechanical failure, Beem said.
“It’s certainly something we’ll look at as part of the investigation,” Beem said.
The aircraft is a model Bombardier CRJ200, he said. The manufacturer is Bombardier Inc., based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines owns 113 such planes, according to its website.