A United Airlines airplane en route to Newark, New Jersey, from Belfast had to make an emergency landing at Shannon airport in southwest Ireland after pilots raised concerns of a mechanical malfunction. The passengers were told there was an issue with the landing gear, which the pilot feared could not be locked in place for a touchdown.
Considering all the horrible airplane crash stories that make the headlines every few months, people aboard Boeing 757 were legitimately terrified. As the crew told them to “brace, brace, brace,” some of the passengers began composing farewell notes for their loved ones.
Hollywood actress Geraldine Hughes was one of them.
“It was awful. It is amazing what this sort of situation does, because we knew for two hours that maybe the landing gear wasn't going to work and we kept hearing this noise,” she said. “At a certain point I got through to texting, when we were at a lower altitude, and when my other half texted me, I lost it — I started to cry. The possibility was that we may not make it. I wrote him a goodbye note. I composed a goodbye note on the notes section of my iPhone.”
Hughes was on her first non-working visit home in years.
“The thing about our life is, I always tell him what I am feeling. And I just thought, 'Well I don't want to leave those things unsaid.' I didn't send it but I told him I wrote it and he said he doesn't ever want to read that note,” she added. “But the crew were fantastic — I trusted every single one of them that they would take care of us. And it was the smoothest landing ever — it was crazy.”
Flight UA76, which took off from Belfast International Airport, landed in Shannon after circling around Ireland’s western seaboard to burn the fuel.
Brendan McKeown, who was traveling to New York with his 29-weeks pregnant wife, said he heard a “grinding sound” shortly after the take-off.
“We ended up then cruising at 10,000 feet for a few hours burning off fuel because the plane was too heavy to land,” the father-of-one told Belfast Live. “We were wondering as he went so low if this was it and he was going to land, but then he swooped back up. Then the captain came on and said the people in the tower had looked at the landing gear and as far as they could tell it was down.”
His wife, Lesley-Anne McKeown, a reporter with the Press Association, took to Twitter after the aircraft made a safe landing. Firefighters and rescue officials were also present on the scene.
Full praise to staff on UA076 from Belfast to Newark. Scary at times but thankfully all good in the end. Hats off to the crew & captain!— Lesley-Anne McKeown (@LAMcbelfast) October 24, 2016
“We were at 3,000 feet and going down and at 1,000 feet all the cabin crew just started chanting, "brace, brace, brace", and it was pretty scary to be honest,” McKeown added. “The thing is when we landed it was as pedestrian a landing as you could imagine. The Fire Brigade and all the emergency services were all scrambled and there was a big round of applause.”