Dennis Fee was traveling aboard Flight 1702 March 13 with two friends to his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for a weekend getaway. The plane began the take-off process around 6:25 p.m., about a half-hour behind schedule, and Fee said all seemed fine until the aircraft began to lift off from the ground.
“We got to the point where we were getting off the ground and then we came back to the ground and the wheels sort of touched and then we went back up in the air,” Fee said. “On the second time coming down, that’s when the front hit the ground quite hard and the wheels broke off and we started skidding down the runway.”
Officials say the pilots aborted takeoff for a yet-to-be-determined reason and upon touching back down, the front landing gear collapsed, causing the skidding on the nose.
Fee said the incident was over in about 30 seconds, but it was a frightening 30 seconds.
“There were people screaming and yelling and a bit of panic, which is natural I suppose,” he said. “I just held on and hoped the plane would stop at some point.”
When it did stop, the pilot came over the speaker and first told everyone to stay in their seats and then ordered an evacuation. Passengers pulled open the emergency-exit doors and released the chutes, slid down and were ushered away from the plane.
Two passengers were transported to area hospitals for minor injuries.
Fee said the passengers spent about 40 minutes waiting for bus transportation off the runway. It was in the 20s that day and many did not bring their coats off the plane in the panic.
When they were transported back to the airport, they were cordoned off in a lounge and offered food and drink.
“We couldn’t really do anything, we had to stay there. The police were at all the exits and we couldn’t leave the actual lounge,” Fee said, noting he and his traveling companions decided to get a rescheduled 11:30 p.m. flight. “Some people opted not to go but we decided to continue on.”
Their plane touched down in Florida around 3 a.m., Fee said, and the rest of the weekend was comparatively uneventful.
“Once we got to the house it was fine. The rest of the weekend was quite nice,” he said. “It was a good way to avoid another snowstorm I suppose.”
The trio returned Tuesday evening and the only problem they experienced was a 40-minute delay.
Passengers were reimbursed for the flight and given a $400 US Airways voucher.
Fee said he frequently uses US Airways, and this experience won’t deter him.
“I’ve been flying with them for years. It was quite an experience, but I’m happy it turned out OK.”