It was a terrifying moment on a flight bound for Orange County when passengers on board captured the moment their plane’s landing gear failed.
“We went a little bit faster than I would normally fly when we went down,” said 16-year-old passenger Abhi Amineni.
Amineni captured the frantic scene, showing sparks and smoke flying from the left side of the Boeing 737-800. He remembered the shaking during the plane’s final approach to John Wayne Airport.
“As we made the final approach, everything kept shaking,” he said. “Usually this kind of shaking is just normal turbulence, but it doesn’t normally happen this close to the ground.”
The landing and people’s screams shocked Aminieni and his friend Ahkil Arunkumar. The pair said there was no announcement to brace themselves.
“It was ‘Hey guys your landing gear collapsed so we’re stuck here for now’ and that was it,” said Arunkumar.
Aminieni and Arunkumar’s aircraft, Alaska Airline Flight 1288 from Seattle, remains badly damaged on the runway with one of the engines on the ground and the landing gear not visible.
“Unfortunately, this particular landing was unsuccessful,” said Captain Ross Aimer, a retired pilot and aviation expert.
Aimer believes the pilots had no idea how hard the landing would have been.
“Of course not, they didn’t know it was going to be this hard. Otherwise they would have bypassed it,” he said.
Aimer believes the weather may have played a role in the hard landing.
“Maybe they hit wind shear just before landing and the runway was wet,” he said.
The retired pilot added John Wayne Airport, this type of aircraft and a wet runway made for a spicy combination.
“It’s a bigger 737-800 — one of the newest models,” Aimer said. “But unfortunately it’s much bigger, heavier and requires a much higher landing speed – that makes it more difficult.”
He also said that with Orange County having a shorter runway and the conditions, LAX would have been his choice.
“I assume there was a lot of wind and rain, which made it very difficult on a short runway like Orange County Airport,” Aimer said.
All the passengers were unharmed and were escorted off the plane by OC firefighters and although it was a terrifying experience, Aminieni and Arunkumar are grateful.
“You have to give credit to the pilot,” he said. “You’re landing in high winds, poor visibility and on one of the shortest commercial runways – it’s a recipe for disaster, so you need to give the pilot a pat on the back.”
Alaska Airlines released a statement saying they will focus on looking after their passengers, which includes collecting their luggage and, of course, inspecting the aircraft.
“The safety of our guests and employees is always our number one priority,” the company said. “While this incident is rare, our flight crews train extensively to safely handle many scenarios. Our maintenance and safety teams inspect the aircraft.”
The National Transportation Safety Board has not launched an investigation at this time.