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United Jet Nose Gear Veers Off Runway After Smoke in Cockpit

United Jet Makes Emergency Landing After Malfunction
An Airbus SAS A320 jet flown by United Continental Holdings Inc. made an emergency landing in New Orleans shortly after takeoff this morning after experiencing problems with the flight instruments. Photographer: Patrick Semansky/AP

A United Continental Holdings Inc. jet lost electrical power and had smoke in the cockpit, forcing an emergency landing at the New Orleans airport that ended with the nose gear off the edge of the runway.

The 100 passengers and 5 crew members of Flight 497 slid down emergency chutes when the Airbus SAS A320 returned to the airport shortly after takeoff, said Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for Chicago-based United. No injuries were reported, he said in a telephone interview.

“The pilots reported smoke in the cockpit and then reported losing their electronics while making their way back to the airport,” said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

Upon landing, the jet veered off the left side of a 7,001-foot runway about 2,000 feet (610 meters) from the end, with a “loss of anti-skid braking and nose-wheel steering,” the NTSB said. The incident occurred at about 7:30 a.m. local time, interrupting a trip to San Francisco.

Flight 497 was at an altitude of about 4,000 feet when the crew got automated warnings and detected smoke, to which they responded with plans for an emergency landing, according to an NTSB statement.

Instruments Lost

“We’ve lost all our instruments right now,” one of the pilots told air-traffic controllers, according to a recording posted on in which beeping alarms could be heard when the pilots talked.

Controllers helped guide the jet to the runway, pointing out landmarks and giving them directions, including: “Continue left turn; I’ll tell you when to stop, sir.”

The plane was back on the ground about 20 minutes after takeoff and sustained “minor damage,” the NTSB said.

A United spokesman, Mike Trevino, confirmed the plane had a problem with its instruments while declining to say whether there was smoke in the cockpit.

United has 97 of the A320s in service, with an average age of 12.5 years, according to the carrier’s most recent annual report. The twin-engine planes can carry 144 passengers. United has 710 aircraft in its main jet fleet.

United fell 19 cents to $22.75 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 17 percent in the past year.

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