The flight experiencing this terrifying event was Shuttle America Flight 5124, a United Express commuter flight which had originated from Atlanta, Ga. and was carrying approximately 70 people.
"We just thought it was the end," said Steve Parowski, who was on-board. "I just sent a text to my sons letting them know that I loved them, and I hoped everything worked out," reported the New Jersey Star-Ledger
. Parowski, 49, told media passengers were prepared 45 minutes prior to prepare for a crash landing.
Several media reports noted the pilot had noticed an indicator light had gone off in the cockpit that indicated unsafe gear.
reported the United Express pilot radioed in, "We're not gonna know that it's completely down and locked, so I would like to declare an emergency at this time and request rescue check us out when we get there. Assuming we stop on the runway."
New York reported, "That nose gear is not down," the air traffic controller confirmed in the audio recordings. "You got no nose gear... Door might have opened. Saw a little bump."
As the plane circled New York and flew over Newark Liberty, passengers could see fire personnel were ready and on the scene. Fortunately the pilot was able to navigate a safe landing using only the aircraft's rear landing gear and the jet was landed safely at about 6:30 p.m. EST. According to the Star-Ledger, once the plane was on the ground, passengers exited unharmed via an emergency slide.
At some point during the crash landing, the plane's nose dropped and hit the runway, and reportedly the plane was filled with smoke and a burning rubber odor, but no fire erupted. Foam had already been applied to the runway in anticipation of the emergency landing, and passengers were asked to exit the plane when it stopped.
Reportedly there was little chaos and people exited the plane in an orderly fashion.
Passengers praised the pilot's ability to land so beautifully and said the flight crew was "amazing." Angela Nickerson, of Seattle, who had gone to Atlanta for a long weekend, told the New York Times
, “Honestly, I’ve been in rougher landings when we had landing gear."
After the landing, Newark Airport was shut down for a brief period of time, causing some flight disruptions, but opened up about 40 minutes later. Fire officials examined the scene and found no smoke or fire onboard. Runway 22L, where Flight 5124 landed, was shut down for the night, but other areas were operating as usual after 7 p.m. local time.
At this time it is not known what prevented the front landing gear from operating properly, and federal aviation officials are investigating. No injuries were reported.