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'Scarborough Country' for Dec. 20th

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Patrick Swieskowski, Phil Orlandella, Lee Dickinson, Michael Boyd, Mary Schiavo, Jim Tilmon

CATHERINE CRIER, GUEST HOST:  Obviously, you have gotten the news that Midwest Airline Flight 210 has just landed safely at Logan Airport, after flying around for about an hour-and-a-half to burn off fuel, concerned about landing gear.

We are going to go to NBC‘s Lester Holt in New York.  He‘s covered many an aviation incident.

Lester, can you take us through the landing?

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR:  Well, you saw the sparks.

And, remember, it was the sparks that witnesses had seen when the plane took off that was the first indication of trouble.  And then the pilots also got those warning lights in the cockpit that suggested there was a problem with the right main landing gear.

A couple of things they will look at.  Obviously, the gear door was in a bad position, where it was dragging with the ground creating the sparks, but what was the problem?  Was the problem with the airplane itself, or might it have encountered some foreign object damage as it was rolling down the runway on takeoff; did something kick up from the runway itself and perhaps damage that door and put it in the situation where it‘s dangling? 

They will look at those sorts of things.  Very often they will send vehicles down the runway the plane took off on, to see if there‘s any objects out there.  Interesting to note, he landed on runway 33, which is the longest runway at Logan Airport.  It‘s about 10,000 feet. 

When you are coming in with an airplane that has some sort of difficulty, you want as much runway as possible; 10,000 is a lot of runway for a plane this size.  It seats fewer than 100 people.  As Tom Costello had been reporting, a very modern airplane.  It was originally designed by McDonnell Douglas.  Production began shortly, though, after Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas.  The plane was renamed the 717, basically a smaller version of the MD-80 airplane, newer, more engines, and, again, a bit smaller. 

But the landing gear door, it‘s clear that is what created those sparks.  The pilot obviously getting indications that there was a problem.  When you get two warning lights, that‘s a pretty good indication something is wrong.  Sometimes you will get one, and that could be just a bad warning light, but he no doubt was a bit lighter on the touchdown there, probably lowering the right wing. 

The last thing, burning up as much air speed as he could, and then gently letting that wing down, and come in, probably felt the vibrations.  And it is important to note that he did not feel there was any further risk to passengers.  And thus, we did not see those emergency exits open and the slides deploy; as one of the other guests pointed out, very often in emergency landings, the injuries occur not from the emergency, but from the evacuation.  But it‘s good to see the plane on the ground. 

They are checking it out right now, probably going to secure that door.  I saw them bring the tug up and the tow bar up to the nose of the airplanes, so they probably want to make sure they can secure whatever was hanging down, so it won‘t create any more sparks; then they will tow the plane safely to the gate and deplane the passengers—Catherine.

CRIER:  All right, Lester Holt, thanks very much.

Let‘s check in now with NBC‘s Tom Costello.

Tom, what are the various procedures that pilots in the tower and others consider when they are concerned that the landing gear may have a major problem? 

TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, there‘s a tremendous amount of Q&A, if you will, back and forth communication between that crew that is monitoring all of that very sophisticated avionic equipment inside the cockpit, as well as the folks in the tower. 

If it were daylight and a clear day, you might even have a situation where they would do a fly-around, try to get close to the tower.  The folks in the tower might take a look with binoculars and see whether in fact anything is wrong.  That clearly was not possible tonight, given the fact that it is nighttime, but they would also be and certainly were on the radio, on the satellite phone with the folks at Midwest Airlines, the mechanics as well as the mechanics at Boeing. 

I would point out as well that the 717, the landing gear is hydraulically operated, retractable; it‘s almost like a tricycle type, with twin wheels on all three units.  It is, as you would expect for a modern aircraft, a very modern piece of gear, of landing gear, and it is, as you heard, is hydraulically operated. 

And this, as Lester and I were talking about, is a very sophisticated, modern, yet small plane that is one of Boeing‘s newer line.  It is—I think it‘s supposed to go off of the production line within the next three or four years, if memory serves, and Logan, of course, Boston Logan Airport is the 19th busiest airport in the country right now. 

They would probably—in fact, I know they did.  They allowed continued traffic on those runways while this flight was circling, just burning off fuel.  You don‘t ever want to dump fuel unless you have an absolute emergency, and you have to get down very rapidly, because dumping fuel creates environmental disasters. 

So, they just burn the fuel off, take their time, have long communications with the folks back at headquarters for both Boeing as well as Midwest, talk to the tower, and then finally put the plane down very gently.  And by the way, he was right down the middle line, so not only did the pilot do a wonderful job, but in the end, it looked like all was well. 

CRIER:  Yes, with all the cameras on him, he did a textbook landing.

Well, Tom, if you will stand by, for just a moment, let me bring in former Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo. 

Mary, we have been looking at the outside of the plane, talking about the pilot and the air traffic controllers, the rest of this.  What about inside, the stewardesses, passengers; what sort of preparation was going on in that hour and-a-half plus where they were circling to burn off fuel? 

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER TRANSPORTATION INSPECTOR GENERAL:  Well, the flight attendants—while the pilots have a difficult job, the flight attendants have a tough one, too. 

And I was on one of these emergencies myself on a landing gear, and the flight attendants were quite good, in that you don‘t have to be in a braced position, of course, until they are coming in to actually make the approach in the final landing, but they do get everyone in the brace position.  They instruct you what to do.  They instruct you on opening the doors.  They instruct you on the emergency procedure. 

They tell you to leave your things.  They tell you to be prepared to get up and get out.  They instruct you that you will have to help and not push and shove at the exit-way.  They instruct you in the emergency landing lights, so they really tell you everything.  They don‘t sugarcoat anything.  They tell you that if they get down and there‘s a problem, that you are going to have to, you know, buck up and get up and go and help get the emergency evacuation going.

And they told us, at least the one that I was on, point-blank, you know, this could be an extremely bumpy landing.  Get down in the brace position, and don‘t get out until we stop, but that was great.  On the one I was on, everyone really appreciated the candor, and there was tumultuous applause when we got stopped. 

The front tire on ours did burn, but that‘s what occurred, and it was very blunt, very matter of fact.  There was no hysteria, and everybody followed instructions. 

CRIER:  Yes, on the other hand, to imagine flying around being aware from the moment you took off for, as we said, over an hour and-a-half, that, in fact, you are going to make a landing and you have no idea how that‘s going to turn out, has to be one of the most harrowing events you have gone through. 


SCHIAVO:  Well, it‘s pretty nerve-racking, but at least for me, and I‘m a pilot, what I appreciated was the honesty and the candor.  They just really told you like it was. 

Statistically, I guess I had some advantage, because I knew statistically that the landing gear problems, the planes are pretty tough, and most often they survive, and there are things that the planes will hold up even if it collapses, and there are things that the pilots can do to make it much easier, and the emergency equipment was there also for us to help in any emergency evacuation, so the candor was very much appreciated.  And people were quite good about it.  There was no panic. 

CRIER:  Mary, what tends to be the usual outcome?  And I am not talking about, you know, sort of death and destruction.  I really am talking about the plane itself.  When you have got major landing gear problems—you talked about having a tire burn, but, in fact does it often happen when there is a major landing gear problem that you have got some sort of collapse where the fuselage, then, is literally scraping along the runway?  Is that the biggest concern? 


SCHIAVO:  Well, that‘s the biggest concern, or something uneven, if one side dips down. 

The biggest worry is catapulting or that the plane should one—should dip down and catch, and then the plane would flip over.  That‘s the biggest worry.  The planes, even if they skid, as everyone has recently seen in Chicago, even in Toronto, where the plane did burn, everyone got off, so people are—you know, the plane can withstand a belly landing, and pilots are taught to do that, but what people are most worried about is it slipping or catapulting. 

CRIER:  All right. 

And, Mary, what sort of schedule are these planes on?  We heard from Tom about the 717, a very reputable, very reliable airplane, but in terms of meeting regulations for inspections, how recently would you expect that this particular system had been reviewed? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, actually, this particular system, the landing gear, the tires, the doors, that is—that receives a walk-around from the pilot every day.  It goes through a lower level check.  There‘s A checks, B checks, C, and D.  D is a complete overhead. 

It gets an A check every few days, and every morning, the first flight of the day, the pilot does an extensive walk-around, as do the airline mechanics, and the landing gears and tires get checked every single time. 

CRIER:  All right.

Well, Tom, at this point in time, what happens to the passengers, to the pilot?  We have got the plane there.  It will be I assume towed in.  And we know what‘s going to happen to the plane in terms of major inspection, but are these people basically taken off and put on another flight?  

COSTELLO:  Oh, absolutely. 

And I would assume that anybody who says, you know what, I would like to spend the night and go tomorrow is going to certainly have that option, and Midwest may very well book them on other airlines to move them to their final destination, if that‘s the most convenient for them.  Everybody understands the emotional toll that can take. 

Even though it was a textbook emergency landing in terms of everybody arrived safely, they didn‘t even need to deploy the chutes, you can imagine there are some rattled nerves on board, especially given the fact that we have had these two other aviation incidents over the last couple of weeks or so, the one involving the 737 in Chicago, and of course, the one yesterday involving the plane that went down just off the coast of Miami. 

I just did a bit of research as you were talking just a minute there to Mary, and learned that this plane, as you heard from Lester, it is on the former DC-9 air frame, and it is built, in fact, in Long Beach, California.  So, probably, their communication went back to Long Beach, as opposed to Boeing headquarters in Seattle. 

It first flew in 1998, so this really is a very new airplane, and also, the landing gear is made by an Israeli company.  IAI servo systems makes the landing gear, and Honeywell provides the avionics and the brakes and such, and so all of this, of course, is a very sophisticated vehicle that you see now in use in short-haul flights. 

CRIER:  All right. 

So, what we saw in the—the sparks coming off, at first, they said they were concerned sort of about a tail strike, whether or not the tail might have bumped the runway as they took off, but apparently it was this door against the landing gear.  You know, is this simply a door that retracts to cover the landing gear once the plane has taken off, and then obviously would descend again to allow it back down and simply seemed to have stuck in place? 

COSTELLO:  Yes.  That‘s probably it.  Somehow, it probably got stuck. 

And you may recall, a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the Gulfstream that had a large number of—or I should say, a number Nike executives on board.  And something happened where the landing gear literally got stuck inside, and halfway, I should say, halfway deployed.  You know, these are mechanically operated pieces of equipment.

In this case, you have also got a hydraulically operated landing gear, but it is cold, and you know, you just never quite know what happens, and why you might have some sort of a problem with the landing gear door. 

CRIER:  Now, Mary, let me ask you a question about the pilot.  Is it the pilot‘s decision to make, regarding deploying the chutes, how the passengers are evacuated, as opposed to some other independent individual in the control tower, for example? 

SCHIAVO:  Yes, it is the pilot‘s decision, and it varies from plane to plane. 

For example, on the one in Toronto, which was an Airbus 340, the pilot actually had to push a button, had to turn a switch to start the emergency evacuation.  Here it is the pilot‘s determination whether or not to do that. 

Now, the flight attendants—for example, there was one tragedy that I worked, it was a Little Rock—a bad landing in June of 1991.  In that case, the pilot was incapacitated, and there was fire, and the flight attendants initiated that, and the passengers initiated that.  But it is the pilot‘s call, the pilot‘s determination, whether or not to start an emergency chute evacuation. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Well, Mary, if you can stick around, we have got now with us Michael Boyd.  He‘s an airline analyst. 

Michael, you sort of take a look at what the airlines do next with a bit of publicity like this, with the passengers.  Tell us about that. 

MICHAEL BOYD, AVIATION SECURITY EXPERT:  Well, Midwest will handle this very professionally, but all those passengers, they are heading to the hotel tonight.  There‘s probably nothing else going to Milwaukee or beyond.  Midwest will handle this very smoothly, and these people will be back home by noon tomorrow morning. 

CRIER:  And this may sound like an odd question, but do they sort of offer passengers literally counseling, because there have to be some passengers on there that might not be fans of flying that might be a bit traumatized?

BOYD:  Well, I have worked in emergency landing as a flight attendant. 

My wife has as well. 

And you get people who get very nervous over these things.  So, I would suspect if anybody on that airplane would want counseling for whatever reason, Midwest would certainly give it to them, but, again, this is something that was probably less dramatic than it looked to us, and the people on the airplane will be back home by midday tomorrow. 

CRIER:  Well, if you were a flight attendant, you have probably been in a few scary circumstances.  What do you do, and particularly when you have passengers that may be a bit panicked?  How do you handle the situation? 

BOYD:  Well, you try to explain to them what the situation is.  And, as Mary said, you have to be very candid with them.  But you look at who is in the emergency rows. 

You make the determination whether they should stay there or have somewhere else there, so they clearly understand what their job is in that emergency row, in terms of what to do when that airplane comes to a stop, if there is an untoward event, unlike what happened tonight. 

CRIER:  What do you do if you have got passengers who panic? 

BOYD:  Well, number one, passengers prior to this, you had time to look at this.  If you have passengers who are panicky ahead of time, you don‘t let them operate the emergency exit.  You put them somewhere else, and have someone there who can get people out, but it‘s a natural thing to be in a big heavy piece of metal that isn‘t working properly and to be worried about it. 

It‘s the flight attendant‘s job to try to explain very clearly, very directly, and very candidly this is what we are going to do, not like we are all going to die, but we are going to do certain things that will be unpleasant.  It will be a physical exercise, but we will get off of this.  But you have to explain to them how important it is. 

CRIER:  What do you do with small children?  It‘s one thing to—you know, to talk to passengers about how to prepare for a potential crash situation or a rough landing.  What do you do with small children? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, they are the responsibility of the parents.  And you have to tell the parents what to do with a small child, in terms of getting them off the aircraft and make it very clear to the parent that the flight attendant is not there to take care of your child.

The flight attendant is there to take care of the entire airplane.  And you are the one that has to take care of your child.  Here‘s how to do it. 

CRIER:  I would think it would be tough, though.  When you‘re talking about how do you brace for a potential crash landing, this kind of thing, and you have got 4- or 5-year-olds on the plane, is there special training that you have got to go through to take care of the situations? 

BOYD:  Well, absolutely. 

And as Mary would certainly understand, there‘s a big issue now about infants on an airplane.  Should they have special seats, as opposed to having the passengers hold them in their laps in a crash situation?  The FAA has been diddling with that for are years, and I don‘t have an answer to it. 

CRIER:  All right.  And what about overall P.R.?  We have talked now about several, the JetBlue situation, the Nike plane, obviously, the Miami situation.  Does the airline as a whole, airline industry as a whole, take a moment when things happen in rapid succession like this and say, wait a minute; we have got to address this? 

BOYD:  Oh, sure. 

Now, in this case, it‘s basically a piece of machinery that did not operate properly, but certainly Midwest, which is one of the best managed airlines in the country, knows how to handle this from a P.R. point of view.  And I don‘t mean to gloss over it, but to explain it away.  The real issue here is, was there a mechanical problem?  They will be working on this tomorrow to make sure it doesn‘t happen again. 

CRIER:  Well, this comes on the heels of a story which I think a lot of people found very interesting, concern that some of the airlines are having repair work done on their aircraft by individuals or groups that are not specifically, I guess, sort of FAA-certified.  Could there be a bigger, not necessarily with this flight at all, but could there be a bigger at least publicity problem that the airlines are concerned about? 

BOYD:  Well, it could be, but knowing Midwest—and one of their former V.P.s works for us—certainly, Midwest would certainly not be in that category. 

Yes, there is an issue there that came out today, and certainly Mary Schiavo has been at the forefront of dealing with that issue, of the FAA falling down on the job, but in this case at least, I don‘t think that had anything to do with tonight‘s incident. 

CRIER:  All right.

So, Mary, what happens to the plane now?  We obviously now know what‘s going to happen to the passengers, but is this plane literally sort of pulled into a hangar somewhere and they start going over it with a fine-tooth comb or do they just focus on the one thing they think is the problem? 

SCHIAVO:  Well, they will—it‘s kind of a mixture of both.  They will focus on the area that they think is a problem, but they will take this plane into a hangar, and they will go over it with a fine-tooth comb, because there were two warning lights on, and then obviously there as a situation with metal rubbing against metal, plus the warning lights. 

In some ways, it worked exactly like it‘s supposed to.  It appears the warning lights signalled exactly what was wrong.  The door didn‘t close properly, and you had the landing gear issue.  And they will want to check that out because sometimes the lights themselves are faulty.  I actually worked a case when I was inspector general where we had faulty warning lights we were looking at. 

But the issue of maintenance is certainly front and center, particularly with the number of instances occurring in Miami.  We worked a number of cases when I was inspector general, with bad repairs, bad parts, bad issues concerning repairs, but the interesting thing about this plane is, I believe it‘s new enough that frankly it‘s probably—like your automobiles, it‘s probably still under warranty. 

If the planes are new, the manufacturer itself continues to take care of them and does parts provisioning, etcetera, and that is obviously the best of all possible worlds. 

CRIER:  Did the story bother you, concern you about the various individuals who have been doing repair work on major aircraft, possibly not fulfilling FAA requirements? 

SCHIAVO:  Oh, absolutely.  That‘s a very big problem. 

It‘s becoming a bigger problem as we outsource more and more of our maintenance.  Now, a decade or two ago, the airlines did their own maintenance, and all the maintenance was done on our aircraft, or most of it, within the United States of America.

But now with the FAA relying mostly, and people are always surprised to learn this, but most of their inspectors are designated inspector.  They work for the repair stations.  They work for the airlines, although less and less for the airlines.  And they are secondary.  They‘re kind of intermediary people.  They‘re not really government inspectors at all, and unfortunately, as in any profession, there are some people who aren‘t reputable.  They break the rules.  They fudge on the rules.  They don‘t have the proper certification, and we did some investigations when I was I.G. that some of the people couldn‘t even read the manuals of planes that they were supposed to be operating on.

And that‘s why it‘s more of an issue on older aircraft.  The longer it‘s out there, and getting worked on by various and sundry individuals, or particularly outside of the U.S., you don‘t really know what‘s happened to the plane, and so that‘s why frankly newer is often better.  It‘s been under tighter controls and better maintenance. 

CRIER:  Mary, let me ask you, if they had not seen the sparks, if the passengers had not reported the sparks, you just talked about having faulty signal lights, so sometimes the pilot is not sure whether the warning is legitimate.  This is at night.  They couldn‘t have done a flyby.  They couldn‘t have checked the landing gear necessarily.  What would have happened?  Would this plane have continued on to Milwaukee and then possibly confronted a landing problem there? 

SCHIAVO:  No, probably not, since they had two warning lights.  With just one warning light, they might have and assumed that they had some problem with a faulty warning light, but here the door didn‘t close properly either, and usually you go back to your airplane, unless for some reason the airport you are headed to has better emergency services or emergency equipment, or it‘s your maintenance base.

Often, they will try to get the planes home to their maintenance base. 

CRIER:  What sort of work is done with the pilot following something like this?  I would think there‘s probably some sort of debriefing with all of the personnel involved, the pilot, even air traffic controllers. 

SCHIAVO:  Oh, absolutely, there‘s a debriefing with everyone involved, but most particularly, the pilot has a very formal role to play in that. 

There are things that the pilots must log in the logbooks, and they must sign and initial the logbooks.  They will be debriefed and provide a report, and obviously, in the official investigation, they will also be debriefed.

But, here, it will be quick—it will be a quick operation because this isn‘t—this isn‘t an accident.  Nobody was injured.  Nobody was—thank heavens no one was killed, and so they will get on with this very quickly, the pilot debriefing, and his or her operations—and participation, rather.  You know, they will be back on the job tomorrow or the next day. 

CRIER:  All right. 

You talked about this, the 717, this plane may still be under warranty.  Would this warrant going and looking at other planes to see if there was possibly a more universal defect, or would the assumption be that it was simply this plane? 

SCHIAVO:  No.  The assumption will be the former that you mentioned; particularly, they will be looking at the manufacturer of this landing gear and this door. 

In fact, they will probably zero in on that manufacturer of that component part, and they will be looking to see if that manufacturer has had other instances.  For example, it‘s entirely possible that maybe some of these components were on the Nike corporate jet, or were on some of the other equipment, because the manufacturers that make these components, particularly landing gear components, they are used on many different planes, and they make them on many different models, and that‘s one of the key roles of the NTSB. 

They are looking for those commonalities among components or parts, not necessarily just on aircraft, and that‘s probably their most important function, and that is the first thing they will look at, is actually the part, probably, rather than the plane. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Well, what authority does the NTSB or even the FAA have to just sort of order this kind of mandatory examination?  Because I know, in other crash situations, we have heard years later that wiring problems or this and that had not been inspected in the various planes that were comparable to the one that was affected in the crash. 


SCHIAVO:  Boy, that is the most important question of all, because it is the NTSB that investigates and finds the problems and makes the recommendations, but the NTSB can only beg. 

It‘s the FAA that has to publish proposed regulations and go through a rule-making procedure and actually make the regulations into law, and therein lies the great divide.  The NTSB is frequently complaining the FAA doesn‘t act fast enough.  The FAA does have the power to do an emergency airworthiness directive, which requires immediate action. 

They do have to follow it up with a more permanent rule or federal regulation, but they could act immediately.  For example, if this landing gear door is the same one that was involved in the Nike—and I am not saying that it is.  And it‘s unlikely that it is.  But if by chance it would be, I would expect an emergency airworthiness directive would be issued rather promptly by the FAA, because two in this short of a time frame would suggest you have got some sort of a problem. 

CRIER:  Well, just as we have moved into this conversation, I will tell you, our producers are on the ball, because we now have with us a former NTSB official, Dr. Lee Dickinson.

Doctor, we were just talking about with Mary Schiavo, sometimes, the problems, when the NTSB either finds a problem, is concerned, trying to get the FAA to—to cooperate, to mandate some sort of inspection activity, how troublesome is it to think that you might have a problem worth investigating or examining, and not get fast enough or sufficient cooperation? 


Well, I don‘t think it‘s—you have to be careful, because as you know, the NTSB is a nonregulatory body, where the FAA is, indeed, a regulatory government agency. 

The NTSB does the accident investigation.  If they find a problem, they rightly will make a recommendation to the FAA, so I think I heard what Mary was talking about, but it‘s not always that the NTSB makes a recommendation, and the FAA stalls or does not do the proper thing. 

CRIER:  Well, no, no, certainly not.  And thank goodness, because I think we all appreciate the fact that the airline industry is very safe.  I think it was Tom Costello talking earlier about 8,000 to 10,000 planes at any time circling in the United States, so we certainly appreciate the cooperation.

But is there concern, whether it‘s funding or the fact that the regulatory process can be very slow, that, you know, sometimes, sort of blanket inspections are stalled or not conducted because it is very costly, it is very time-consuming for a major industry? 

DICKINSON:  Well, inspections, again, you have to be careful about what inspections you are talking about.  Typically there are certain periodic inspections that are held. 

Some of them are less involved, if you will, than the others.  And that—there‘s a reason for that.  But, typically, what happens is, when the inspection is done, if a problem is found, they‘re written up and they‘re fixed.  If a pilot finds a problem, a pilot or co-pilot finds a problem, they write them up and they are typically fixed.  The thing that you have to keep in mind is, it is indeed a very, very safe industry, and we know that from statistics. 

Now, you have something like this, it‘s somewhat of a wakeup call, and you want to make sure, indeed, if the problem is found, figure out what it is, why it happened, and fix it. 

CRIER:  And would it be warranted, then, as Mary and I were talking about, to—to really look at the manufacturer of this particular landing gear, which, as she said, may appear on many different kinds of planes and not just a Midwest 717, and then to do some sort of more universal inspection? 

DICKINSON:  Absolutely.  She is right in that regard.  One thing you have to keep in mind, though, is if, indeed—there‘s a number of takeoffs and landings each and every day, so this landing gear goes through a lot of landings, as I said, and takeoffs—if, indeed, there is a problem, and if we find out that there‘s more than one problem, if it‘s happened before, then that just—there‘s no question that something should be done about it. 

The first thing you have to do, though, is figure out what happened, why it happened, what was going on, and then make a decision about is this widespread or not?  So you can‘t jump to conclusions.  You have to go through a pretty tedious process to find out exactly what it was, what caused it, and then fix it and then see if it‘s throughout the fleet. 

CRIER:  Now, how detailed will the examination be by the NTSB, in a case like this, where wonderfully it seemed almost a textbook landing in an emergency situation like this?  Everyone is safe and sound, but what will the NTSB do in terms of pursuing—quote—an “investigation” into the incident? 

DICKINSON:  Well, one of the things, if, indeed, you are going to have an accident or an incident, it‘s great to have one, if you have to, where nobody is injured and the plane gets down and everybody is OK. 

One of the things that the NTSB will do first right away will be talk to the crew, and find out from them exactly what they did, what they went through, what happened, what type of information were they getting from the aircraft, what were they doing, how did the aircraft respond.  And, from that, then they will get into maintenance records, and they will look to see when, indeed, this part was last inspected, were there any problems with—have there been any changes, what types of write-ups?

So, from that standpoint, the NTSB can focus pretty easily, if you will, or pretty quickly, into that area, but you want to make sure that it‘s not something else that‘s—because you are focusing so much on one area.  You don‘t want to forget something else or leave something else out. 

CRIER:  Absolutely. 

Well, we now have with us former American Airlines pilot Jim Tilmon. 

Jim, much appreciated, because I would think that the—despite possibly panicked passengers and concern in the tower, the person in command is the pilot.  Tell me what goes through a pilot‘s head, and all the training has to come to bear at this particular moment.  What is a moment like this like? 

JIM TILMON, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT:  Well, a lot of things are routine. 

You have checklists that you go through, and you go through those in the same fashion as you would in just an ordinary landing.  The only thing that made this one exceptional was the fact that you had this additional mystery about what was going on, on the right side of your airplane for your landing gear, but you maintain your composure.  You slow down, actually. 

I mean, one of the things that you learn when you start flying with an airline is, you always have time.  What you don‘t need is to rush.  And so you take your time.  You calmly analyze the situation.  You talk with people on the ground.  You get all this into a game plan. 

And that is what you land with.  You land with a game plan.  And the game plan, I believe, as you watch this again, is, he touches down on the left gear just slightly before he does the right gear.  And that gives him a chance to kind of just tickle the runway with that right gear a little bit to make sure that it‘s going to hold the airplane‘s weight and everything is going to be fine.

But you don‘t—there‘s no worry.  You know, there‘s no worry in captain.  You just—there isn‘t that kind of a tension that I think some people might think that you have.  You are busy.  You have got a lot of things going on.  You are sitting up straight in your seat.  You are focused totally on the situation, but you are not afraid; you‘re not worried; you‘re not any of that stuff.  You are just doing a job that you know how to do, and in this case, doing it well. 

CRIER:  Well, you have got that very confidence-inspiring voice, and I certainly hope all the other pilots out there think and act just as you apparently did. 

How much information, though, would the pilot actually have?  As you said, he tickled that right landing gear.  Are you out there practicing when you are learning to fly these machines to do things like that, because that‘s a pretty—I only fly little Cessna 150s, but that‘s still pretty precarious to balance something this size like that. 

TILMON:  Well, when you fly your 150, and you are landing in a crosswind, you land with one of your landing gears down.


CRIER:  Right. 

TILMON:  One landing gear first, simply because you are dipping a wind slightly into the wind.  And you can use that technique even when there is not a crosswind, if you do want to land and give a little bit more time before you touch down on the other landing gear. 

It‘s not a long time.  It‘s just kind of a—a very gentle approach toward letting the weight of the airplane lower down on that side.  So it‘s not a technique that you practice all the time, and I don‘t know that you practice it in a simulator necessarily when you go back for proficiency training.  It‘s something that you know how to do.  I mean, you know...

CRIER:  You just got to feel it; you just got to touch. 

TILMON:  Yes.  You know the airplane; you know what it will do. 

You strap that airplane on, and the two of you go flying.  It‘s not as if you are operating some machine.  You are part of it, and it‘s part of you. 

CRIER:  What would—concerns me, you have got lights; you are not sure exactly what they are telling you.  You have seen sparks.  Passengers have reported sparks.  There have to be some concerns. 

Is there any sort of fuel problem or engine problem, or—in addition to a collapsed landing gear, a possible fire hazard, so that other checklist that might not be written down in front of you, what‘s going through your mind? 

TILMON:  Well, it‘s just a matter of solving the mystery.  And as soon as you put weight on that gear, and it holds, you solved the mystery. 

CRIER:  Yes. 

TILMON:  There is no more—there are no more questions really for you to answer, then.  The rest of the issue, in this equation, goes to the personnel on the ground, the people who are there, the emergency crews that are going to approach the airplane to determine whether or not there is a presence of any fire or anything like that, and, of course, the maintenance personnel that are going to take care of the airplane, and those that are going to investigate this to determine whether or not there is something that they really didn‘t know about, so that it doesn‘t happen again. 

You know, I say that it‘s very calm and everything else, but I will bet you this captain doesn‘t want this to happen on his next flight either. 

CRIER:  Well, absolutely. 

I just want to remind those who may be just joining us, we are looking at pictures here of Midwest Airline.  It‘s Flight 210.  It was scheduled to go to Milwaukee, left Logan.  Apparently as the plane took off there were sparks the passengers reported to the crew.  Some were concerned about a possible tail strike, the tail possibly having bumped the runway, weren‘t sure at first what this was all about.  Then you had the two lights indicating problems with the landing gear. 

The pilot circled around the area there for over an hour-and-a-half to burn fuel, obviously wanting to lighten the load if the aircraft was going to have to come in obviously as it did and make an emergency landing, and over time, you can see we all prepared for this, watching this, and it seemed to be virtually textbook.

And, Jim, I am sure you have had a chance now to look at this.  Anything you see that this pilot could have done really any better, because it just seemed to be absolutely perfect the way he slowed in, so careful, I mean, as you said, literally sort of teetered on that right landing gear?

TILMON:  This was a great commercial for Midwest Airlines.  


TILMON:  I mean, what we are looking at here as—how would you ever get a commercial put together that would show the professionalism of your flight crew in the cabin, as well as in the cockpit? 

So, yes, it was textbook.  He did this in a way which I would hope that if I ever had the same situation, I would do it that well. 

Look at where that nose gear is, right on the middle of the center line. 



CRIER:  Right on the money. 

TILMON:  Yes. 

CRIER:  So, yes, when the nation is watching, this is the way you land the plane. 

A question I was asking a couple of the guests earlier, you have got to make a decision whether to deploy this chute.  Passengers get hurt on the chute frequently.  What is going through your mind there?  Very cold out there.  Those people would be out on the tarmac.  When do you decide to use the chute and when not? 

TILMON:  Well, every airline has its own policies and procedures, but I would think most airline cockpit crew are going to exercise that only when they really feel it is absolutely necessary. 

If that thing had touched down and the gear had failed, if there had been flames after the airplane had slowed down, if there had been anything that created some imminent danger for the passengers on board, then they are better of going down the chute. 

Remember, the chutes are not like stairs, and it‘s not something that passengers ever have experience generally to do prior to that event.  And following the instructions that are being shouted out to you can be very difficult, and—when you are all tensed up like that.  I guarantee you, if you are ever a passenger and you listen to the instructions of the flight attendants, and they tell you exactly how to go down the chute, if you do it that way, you are not going to get hurt. 

The people that get hurt are those that are just a little bit excited and don‘t hear or understand everything they are being told.  But I don‘t like to use the chutes unless I absolutely have to.  There‘s a better way to get off the airplane. 

CRIER:  All right, well, Jim, if you could stand by, I want to get a final comment from Tom Costello.

Tom, your thoughts. 

COSTELLO:  Well, I think that—I think you are absolutely right. 

This guy put this plane perfectly down on the runway.

And I also noticed it was right down—right on the center line.  They are going to clearly do a lot of checking to see what we want wrong, what was the problem.  Is it isolated to this particular airplane and this particular air—not just this airplane, but is it a problem with this, with the 717, or is it just some mechanical issue that happened tonight for some unknown reason, and did the cold play any part in it? 

Now, you can‘t imagine why.  It gets a heck of a lot colder at great altitudes than where it is right now, at about 17 degrees with a wind chill on the ground in Boston.

But, you know, Jim, if you don‘t mind me asking you a question, it just seems this happens a heck of a lot more than we know about, and we just simply—it‘s so routine anymore, and it just happens that when a television helicopter gets up in the air, that‘s when we happen to grab onto it. 

CRIER:  Jim, can you hear the question? 

TILMON:  You have got a story.


COSTELLO:  Jim, say it one more time.  I‘m sorry. 

TILMON:  I said, you have been around the business long enough to know, when you have good video, you have got a story.  If you don‘t have the video, maybe not.  And we had good video tonight. 


COSTELLO:  I think the point is that emergency landings are, in this kind of a situation, they‘re not terribly uncommon.  I don‘t want to suggest they happen every hour, but when you have got so many planes in the air, 6,000, 8,000, to 10,000 at any time during a typical day, and they generally 99.9 percent of the time come down, everybody is fine and safe.

But there are occasions when you have got some sort of an indicator, a warning light or whatever, and that does necessitate an emergency landing. 

TILMON:  I can tell you, you know, I have been in newsrooms when somebody has yelled out, oh, my gosh, somebody is going around at O‘Hare. 

Well, should we get a crew?  Well, no.  Go-arounds happen all the time, sometimes for different reasons, but, I mean, sometimes, it‘s just because there was another airplane on the runway.  It‘s exciting when you get into an aviation story, because we don‘t have many aviation events, thank heavens. 

And that‘s when it—that makes it really newsworthy, that coupled with the fact that there‘s a certain fascination with the aviation business, period.  But I can tell you that I am delighted that we have this much attention given to aviation, because now more and more people can understand just how well this system works in this country. 

And they can understand just how professional these crews are on the ground and in the air and the fact that there are a lot of people that are all working in concert to make every one of those flights a routine flight for you, that when you get on your airplane and you fly from point A to B to get off, you have to remember that the reason that was routine is because of a lot of really hard-working people who have studied that craft for a long time and mastered it, have made it a routine operation, and that to me is the most remarkable thing about this event and all the other event. 


COSTELLO:  Absolutely, 63 million takeoffs and landings every single year, Catherine, in the United States, and you know how very, very rare accidents are.  And accidents involving fatalities are very rare. 

CRIER:  Oh, absolutely.

But, Tom, before you go, I want you to reflect a bit, then, on the JetBlue case.  You were covering that extensively back in September.  Remind the viewers about that situation, and there the passengers were basically watching their story unfold there from the body of the plane. 

COSTELLO:  Yes, that‘s right.  They were watching MSNBC.  They were watching me and others talk about it that day.

But this was, as you may recall, a JetBlue A-320.  It had about 146 people on board.  And it made a safe emergency landing at L.A. on September 21.  What happened on that particular event—take a look, that‘s the final video from that day.  The landing gear, the front nose gear, got stuck at a 90-degree angle.  They did everything they could to try to change it, to try to move it.  They simply were unable to. 

And, so, he put the landing gear down, the nose right on the white line, right down the center.  Take a look.  And you will see that it burned up rather considerably, but the plane was absolutely fine.  You saw some sparks and some flames, and the tires disintegrated on landing, but the passengers were safe, the plane was safe. 

Since that happened, we can tell you that U.S. aviation regulators have ordered inspections on 200 Airbus aircraft to see what exactly happened, and what‘s going on with the nose landing gear and why it locked sideways on that particular event.  And so that investigation is still ongoing.

But that speaks to, again, as you and Mary were talking about, how quickly they do, in fact, act, the FAA and NTSB acting in concert to order additional investigations when you have something happen. 

I believe that this type of an event, involving the nose gear on A-320, had happened seven or eight times before in various countries, and that was the event that everybody realized we have a heck of a problem with the nose gear on the A-320.  Let‘s find out why exactly.  That investigation, by the way, still not over. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Well, Tom Costello, thank you very much. 

And we are about to hear from the first passengers just getting off this plane.  We have got the pictures there, so I am not sure you got it now?  All right.  Let‘s listen. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, about 15 minutes out, the pilot came on and told us that he had experienced a problem.  A landing gear indicator light was going on, and they were radioing in, I guess, to try to figure out, you know, what to do.

And came back on about 15 minutes later and said that we were going to stay in Boston, and try to re-land here, and never really indicated that there was going to be a problem with it, but we were going to have to burn off about an hour-and-a-half‘s worth of fuel, so that‘s what we did for the better part of two hours, then, though.

When we came in, we didn‘t, you know, assume any emergency positions.  They felt everything would be fine, but came in fairly routine, but he said that they would expect to see some sparks, but they felt that the landing gear was down and safely locked. 

QUESTION:  After this, will you fly again? 


CRIER:  All right. 

Well, Jim, very interesting there.  He said that they were not told to brace for crash, that apparently the pilot felt he had enough information to not be concerned about a crash landing aspect to this. 

TILMON:  Well, what that tells me is that he had a green light on that landing gear.  Things may not have been absolutely perfect, but if he has got that green light (AUDIO GAP) he has got a gear down that he can use, so otherwise, I think he may have taken far more precautions with the passengers, but that green light is pretty much your kind of information that lets you know, OK, we are going to be able to land on that gear. 

It may be a little different, may be a few more sparks than are usual, but that trouble with whatever he may have learned from maintenance and from Boeing and everybody else he talked with gave him the assurance that the passengers and the airplane would be all right. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Well, I think we have got another sound bite from a passenger.  Let‘s listen. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... at all on the plane. 

QUESTION:  What did they tell you? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They just said that—basically, they didn‘t say a whole lot, that we were going to fly around and use up some of the fuel, and that we may see some sparks, but we may not, and they don‘t expect anything wrong to happen. 

QUESTION:  You are probably glad to be on ground right now? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  It‘s—I wish I was on different ground, but it‘s good to be on any ground, I guess. 


QUESTION:  OK.  That was great.


CRIER:  Jim, obviously, we are collecting those.  Those people seem to be pretty contained there, and pretty much in control. 

But you talk about getting a green light.  Would that be sort of maintenance work that they might be efforting there on the plane, or...

TILMON:  No.  The green light I am talking about is in the cockpit. 

CRIER:  Just a go from?


The thing is that when your landing gear is down and locked, you have a green light for each one of the landing gears. 

CRIER:  Right.  OK.

TILMON:  So, you want three greens. 

And apparently he was able to lower the landing gear into a position where he got that green light.  He had some assurance that that landing gear was going to hold up.  It may have created some sparks, whatever else, but it was going to hold up.  And that was all it took to let him know that, OK, we are going to be able to make this landing.  It may look a little differently, but it‘s going to be safe, and, otherwise, I am sure he would have asked the flight cabin crews to have everybody braced. 

CRIER:  So, the retractable door, if that, in fact, was the problem, as you are saying, might cause sparks, the friction from that, but it was not going to cause a collapse of the landing gear or problem that would basically cause a crash landing situation? 

TILMON:  That‘s correct. 

And it‘s borne out by the fact that even when emergency crews approached the airplane, they didn‘t approach to—with the aggressive act to put out a fire.  They were prepared, but they didn‘t seem to be excited about making sure they didn‘t have an explosion or a fire there. 

CRIER:  OK.  And I was asking Mary about sort of the debriefing of the pilot. 

What sort of procedures does the pilot go through now after the fact?

No.  No, I‘m actually—Jim, that‘s to you. 

TILMON:  Oh, me? 

CRIER:  Yes. 


TILMON:  ... debriefing? 

Oh.  Oh.  He will answer a lot of questions.  They will just want to know what he saw and what he knew and what he learned from this, and whether or not the airplane responded any differently, what kind of indications he found in the cockpit, with all of the systems that involved the landing gear.  But it‘s not a third degree. 

I mean, he is not in trouble. 


CRIER:  Oh, not at all, no, no. 


CRIER:  It‘s more a learning exercise that I am curious about. 

I would like to know, are there people that sort of stand by in air traffic control?  Are they watching the way people respond, not to chastise, but basically take notes and learn from it? 


TILMON:  Just kind of answering some of the questions on the ground, so they will have a better idea about how to study the problem and to prevent it from happening again, but he is going to get a good night‘s sleep, and he deserves it. 

CRIER:  Now, is it—do you find yourself ever in a situation like that actually talking to maintenance people, talking to people with companies that may have made parts? 

TILMON:  Oh, sure. 

CRIER:  So, you are the pilot, but actually getting on the radio and dealing with those people in flight? 

TILMON:  One of the wonderful things about our system is that, when you are flying an airplane and you have a problem, you have the entire world at your disposal, so to speak. 

You have the aircraft manufacturer.  You have the maintenance people and their senior people to talk with.  You have the airline dispatch people to talk with.  You have other pilots.  You have the chief pilot, perhaps, to talk with.  We have—everyone is there to assist you.  Air traffic control is helping you.  You know, they are looking out for you.  They are making sure that everything is clear, that you don‘t have to do anything unusual just to fly around and to do what you need to do to get prepared to land. 

Everyone becomes kind of a brand-new committee that is surrounding you and protecting you and giving you information, so that you have the very best chance of having things work out just like they did tonight, and that‘s not automatic.  That comes because a lot of dedicated professionals are all working in concert to make it happen this way, though the thing that I want to point out is that they do that on every flight. 

CRIER:  Yes. 

TILMON:  I mean, it just so happens, this one had this one unique thing, but we have a lot of people that work to make every flight safe. 

And I wish more passengers realized how many people are literally holding that airplane up when you fly from point A to B. 

CRIER:  Well, I think we have got one of those with us.

Phil Orlandella is with Massport and helps oversee the airport. 

Phil, we have sort of gotten the pilot‘s perspective.  Tell me about those on the ground, those within the airport management, how you respond to something like this. 

PHIL ORLANDELLA, MASSPORT SPOKESMAN:  Well, first of all, it‘s all training and communications.  We do a lot of training here with pilots, with the airlines Massport fire rescue in all the operations.

So, we have plans in place for each type of emergency, and this is an alert two.  It means something is happening.  We got information there was a problem on takeoff.  Somebody saw some sparks.  Obviously, the flight returned to Logan.  It—why it took a long time, it had to burn fuel. 

A Boeing 717, they can‘t dump the fuel.  They have to burn it, so that took a long time.  Communications is the key here.  The pilot and the crew talk to the FAA.  The FAA talk to us; we talk to the fire department, and we are ready for it.  We are sitting there waiting for it to come in.  It just took a long time to burn the fuel, so that kind of added to the tension. 

CRIER:  All right. 

What are the standard preparations?  Because Jim was talking about all of the people that every day with every flight are sort of prepared to act, not only in general partnership, but in an emergency situation.  What are the layers and the levels of personnel that are around literally a phone call or radio away? 

ORLANDELLA:  Well, it starts with the Massport fire rescue, who gets the initial report from the tower and make a decision on what type of emergency this is going to be. 

We have them in levels, one, two, three.  This was called a two.  It means we have an actual.  In conjunction with that, we have the state police that respond.  We have operations that responds.  We have obviously Massport fire rescue, a whole host of units, backup units, first-responders, etcetera. 


CRIER:  Yes.  Can you give us an idea what these events brought about there in the airport?  In other words, take us inside this particular event. 

ORLANDELLA:  Well, this—as I said before, this took—this is—if it—let‘s say that aircraft could dump its fuel or was closer. 

It would probably be over in 15 minutes, but because of the type of aircraft and what he had to do to burn this fuel, that‘s what took the time, so everybody had to sit here and wait and stand by.  And we had fire engines and firefighters out there waiting, state police, Massport, the whole gamut.

And we do this training frequently, do some of it on a weekly basis, some of it on a yearly basis.  We have major drills here, again, in conjunction with everybody involved. 

CRIER:  All right.  You talked about level one, two, and three.  And you called two an actual, a real event.  What is one and what is three? 

ORLANDELLA:  One is a precautionary.  Two means we have an actual incident, a situation, and three means we had an actual incident, bite my tongue, crash, fire, something like that. 

CRIER:  Yes.  Yes. 

Now, with an incident like this, how confident were you?  Obviously the pilot, as Jim described, had the three green lights.  He knew all the landing gear was locked down, thought he could make it down.  But how sure would people be in the control tower, would be in the departments you just described that this was, in fact going to be a safe landing? 

ORLANDELLA:  Well, actually, when he was about, I would say, 30 miles out, he declared he didn‘t need any assistance.  Everything—he said everything appeared to be right. 

But we have already called the—we are going to stand by.  We don‘t change it.  We still go with the full-blown alert. 

CRIER:  And the sparks that we saw, the sparks that appeared on takeoff, how often do you see something like that, where it occurs in some sort of standard fashion, as opposed to being a fire hazard? 

ORLANDELLA:  It doesn‘t happen very often, but you have got to remember, there‘s a lot of people that work here, work out—they see a lot of things.  The controllers are watching everything. 

It doesn‘t happen on a daily basis.  This is probably the first time I have heard about sparks in several months. 

CRIER:  How often do you have an actual—what you are calling an actual level two incident there at the airport? 

ORLANDELLA:  Well, we can have anywhere from one a day or none a week. 

It doesn‘t happen very often.  A lot of them are alert ones, precautionary. 

CRIER:  OK.  And alert ones—what kind of events would produce an alert one? 

ORLANDELLA:  Somebody saying that he is returning because a window cracked or something like that, little minor things that we know are not jeopardizing the aircraft or those on it. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Well, we have got some pictures here that we are just getting in there.  There—that‘s the very latest video.


ORLANDELLA:  I am right here with the passengers now. 

CRIER:  Yes?

ORLANDELLA:  They‘re getting their bags.  They have been re-booked for tomorrow morning.  Everybody is calm.  I don‘t think—I don‘t hear anybody complaining.  It appears it may have been a problem with a brake on the right main gear.  That‘s what we have been told, like 10 minutes ago. 

CRIER:  All right.  And tell me again, you said the brake with the right landing gear? 

ORLANDELLA:  Yes.  It appears a brake in the right main gear might have disintegrated on takeoff. 


Well, what was this about the retractable door, that there might have been a door up against some portion of the landing gear? 

ORLANDELLA:  Well, that‘s what we think was sparking...


ORLANDELLA:  ... some of it. 


ORLANDELLA:  It hit the runway.  The doors didn‘t go up properly, maybe.  I don‘t know.  I am speculating.  We will have to wait to hear from the TSA.

CRIER:  All right. 

Now, with the passengers like this, does anybody have any sort of conversation with the passengers, or it‘s only if they need your assistance?  Do you do anything more? 

ORLANDELLA:  The fire department do that immediately.  They board the plane.  They talk to the captain, anybody injured.

And when they come into the terminal, we have staff here talking to them, saying, how you doing?  Is there anything we can do for you?  Do you need a phone?  Things like that. 

Massport staff is out here now just seeing, is everybody OK, anybody needing attention or anything like that.  But that‘s part of our—what we call a family care program that we do during emergencies. 

CRIER:  All right. 

So, at this point in time, they will all basically be bused to hotels, stay over for the night, and then put on their way tomorrow? 


ORLANDELLA:  Some of them may go home.

I am watching them right now, as you speak.  You have it.  Their bags are coming out of the carousel.  Everybody is picking it up.  A couple of pets here.  They‘re all excited. They‘re out of the cages, obviously.  I am looking—right now, everybody is calm, picking up their bags. 

CRIER:  Tell me what the most traumatic situation you have confronted in your time there at Massport. 

ORLANDELLA:  Wow.  I don‘t want to talk about 9/11, but that would be it. 

CRIER:  Yes.  Yes. 


ORLANDELLA:  Nine-eleven was taken personally. 

CRIER:  Well, I think that‘s fair.  I was actually sitting in a plane at Newark watching all of that from an airplane, ready to fly to the West Coast, so I certainly understand that. 

Something like this, is it pretty much over, then, for the airport, other than sort of the logging and recording of an event like this? 

ORLANDELLA:  Well, there‘s going to be a lot of logging and recording. 

Right now, we are down here with the passengers, as I said, making

sure that they understand what‘s happening with them.  They are going to be

re-booked and getting their bags, if they need any help, transportation,

even make a phone call.  Somebody needs medical attention, just—they‘re traumatized later, you know, we are available.  We have given them numbers. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Well, I think you are there with the passengers.

And Patrick Swieskowski, I think, has stopped by to have a little conversation. 

Do we have Patrick? 



CRIER:  Hello.  So, how are you?  That‘s the first question.

SWIESKOWSKI:  Oh, doing pretty well.  Just getting in a taxi. 

Forty-four (INAUDIBLE) Street, Cambridge, Target (ph) Square. 

CRIER:  There we go.  Now we all know exactly where you are going. 



CRIER:  So, tell me about the passenger‘s perspective.  What is it like to take off and all of a sudden hear that there may be a problem, and then literally, an hour-and-a-half plus flying around, worried about it? 

SWIESKOWSKI:  I mean, so, very early on, the pilot came on and said there was, like, a mechanical problem.  We are going to check whether we should go through to Milwaukee or just come right back to Boston. 

Decided to come back to Boston, so we just had to fly around for, like, an hour-and-a-half, burning off fuel.  I mean, it was pretty calm during all of that. 

And then he came on, like, about 15 minutes before landing, to let us know that, like, they were going to be emergency crews out on the runway.  There would maybe sparks, and the doors might fall off the landing gear holds. 


SWIESKOWSKI:  But—and even with that, people seemed to take it pretty well.  There were a few people that seemed, like, a little, like, shaken or upset, but just, like, a lot of people looking around, like, can you believe this sort of stuff? 

CRIER:  Well, I think that probably on every flight, there‘s going to be one or two people that are basically scared of flying, so it‘s got to be pretty traumatic for them, but how much information were you actually getting? 

When you hear mechanical problem, I know, when I am sitting on a plane, I want more details.  I always want more information.  How much did you actually learn before, say, that last 15 minutes?

SWIESKOWSKI:  Well, they mentioned it, like, an indicator or, like, sensor problem with the right rear landing gear, and really that basically from, like, initially when they said there was something going on.

And they were actually very good.  Like, even after landing, I guess what they think now is that the bearings in the wheel back there were just shot, and because it was sparking even as we were being towed in.

But they updated us on that, like, as we were getting off the plane, even.  So, they were very good about keeping us informed on what they knew. 

CRIER:  Did they ever take you through any sort of crash procedures, or was that never a question on this flight? 

SWIESKOWSKI:  No, never a question on this. 

Just basically said, stay seated.  The landing gear is still there.  Like, it‘s going to be a normal landing.  Like, yes, just stay in your seat.  Like, we might have to be towed in.  They mentioned some risk of the landing gear collapsing, but thankfully that didn‘t happen. 

CRIER:  Now, during a flight, like, this, when they seem to be taking care of the problem, you are flying around, dumping fuel.  Are you able to get up and move around?  Are they conducting service, things on the plane, or is everybody just basically strapped in and somewhat nervous? 

SWIESKOWSKI:  I kind of hoped they would conduct the service, because I wanted their chocolate chip cookies, but the seat belt sign was turned off for, like, a period up there, so we could get up, move around a little, go to the rest room. 

So, they didn‘t let people, like, use, like, laptops or iPods, because we were still, like, pretty low while we were circling, I guess.  But, yes, I mean, really, a surprisingly normal experience. 

CRIER:  All right.  Now, do you get to go home tonight?  And are you heading back to the airport in Milwaukee tomorrow? 


So, tomorrow morning, I will be coming back to the airport, and just go back and hang out in Boston tonight. 

CRIER:   Now, are you a comfortable flyer, or did this—was this traumatic at all for you? 

SWIESKOWSKI:  No.  I am a pretty comfortable flyer.  I will get back on the other plane tomorrow morning. 

CRIER:  Any other passengers?  You said a few of them seemed nervous.

Was everybody, though, pretty much controlled?  Because I remember, with the JetBlue incident—and, of course, these poor people are watching all of the coverage as they‘re flying around.



CRIER:  And, obviously, they were pretty scared. 


I guess we—we obviously didn‘t have, like, the—like, that aspect of having to, like, watch it unfold and hearing, like, speculation about what‘s going on.  We just had, like, the captain letting us know what his latest status was. 

CRIER:  All right. 

Patrick Swieskowski, safe travels.  Thank you very much, sir.

All right, we have been covering Midwest Airliner Flight 210, very, very safe landing at Logan Airport. 

Catherine Crier, in for Joe.