Close call for jet at Logan; Passengers called loved ones, braced for crash

Passengers aboard an American Eagle jet from Toronto braced themselves yesterday for a crash landing at Logan International Airport after an alert ground technician spotted sparks coming from the plane.

The pilot of Flight 4539 aborted his first attempt to land and circled the airport for an hour before touching down safely at 9:30 a.m., said Ed Freni, Massport's director of aviation.

``It was very scary,'' said Bill Shannon of Wayland, one of 37 passengers. ``It was like suddenly finding yourself in a scene from a movie.

``We hit the runway and heard a clunk, and the plane took off again,'' Shannon said.

Mark Faithful, a Massport wildlife technician, alerted airport staff shortly before 8:30 a.m. about the sparks he saw on the plane's first approach, Freni said.

The pilot initially had seen three lights on the Embraer 135's control panel, indicating the landing gear was down and locked, said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. When the plane touched down, its belly and flaps (parts that let the plane land at a slower speed) were damaged, Knudson said. So the pilot aborted the landing, he said, and lowered the gear with a hand crank that can be used if the plane's hydraulic system fails.

For the next hour, as emergency workers marshaled on the ground, the plane circled the airport, doing two fly-bys so people in the control tower and on the ground could see if the plane's gear was down this time, Freni said.

``On the last circle, I started getting really nervous,'' passenger Andrew Merget said. ``I called my family from my cell phone.''

The crew instructed the passengers to hold their heads down as they put their hands on the backs of the seats in front of them, Shannon said.

Moments later, the plane landed without its flaps, Knudson said. Passengers broke into applause.

The NTSB will examine the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, he said.

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