United flight to SFO diverted back to New Orleans


United Flight 497 landed at SFO Monday evening and passengers told ABC7 it was pretty hairy for a while. They knew something was wrong, but there was no panic aboard the plane. They all said that the landing was the scariest part of all.

"It was touchy for a while and first when it landed, you knew it landed hard and then once you ran right off the runway and had this sudden stop. Then of course they were yelling at everybody to rush off the plane without any belongings, you didn't know if the plane was going to blow up or something. It was a rough descent," said passenger Dr. Norman Lowenbraun.

Lowenbraun sent in video to ABC7's uReport after United Flight 497 made an emergency landing.

There is also an audio recording between the tower and the pilot who says he's got troubles with his controls. About 5 1/2 minutes in, the pilot states, "Flight 497 we are declaring an emergency. And please roll equipment for our landing, please." A few minutes later, he states, "We've lost all our instruments right now."

The Airbus A-320 had to return to New Orleans minutes after it took off when the pilot smelled smoke in the cockpit. After touchdown, the nose wheel of the plane veered off the edge of the runway and 104 passengers were evacuated through emergency slides.

Just 12 hours before, a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to San Diego had to be diverted after the pilot noticed a burning electrical smell.

Since Friday, Southwest has had to cancel hundreds of flights after a hole tore open in the fuselage of a Boeing 737. No wonder, passengers are getting nervous about flying.

"I'm trying to just get all my courage together, get everything in order and wished my mother well today and told her I loved her," said air passenger Barbara Daley.

"It felt like it was hit by another plane. It was a big boom and it was knocked sideways," said Diane Hertz.

Hertz is describing the time her plane blew an engine. That's when she became a white knuckle flyer, but today she proudly holds up her diploma. She's a graduate of the Fear of Flying Clinic in San Mateo. Hertz says the classes taught her to trust the equipment and crew.

"The message is do not worry about what's going on because all the people caring for the planes and caring for you and the planes are qualified in what they're doing," said Hertz.

Lowenbraun says United has been very generous with the passengers by offering those who felt that they couldn't get on another plane immediately, a hotel room for the night.

Meantime, the NTSB has announced that it will investigate the incident.

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