The two pilots on Mike Pence’s campaign plane were at odds over how to land the jet just before it skidded off the LaGuardia Airport runway two weeks before the election, according to a cockpit transcript released yesterday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
As Eastern Air Lines Flight 3452 verged on overshooting the runway, First Officer Diego Fernando Restrepo, who was the co-pilot in charge of landing, tried to keep the plane centered on the runway, while Capt. Robert Galloway turned right, according to more than 400 pages of fact-finding material.
The jet slammed into protective barriers at the runway’s end on a rainy Oct. 27 before careening into a grassy patch thick with rain-soaked mud about 7:40 p.m., several hundred feet from the Grand Central Parkway.
“I should have gone straight ahead and we would have been fine,” Galloway said several minutes after the landing, according to the transcript. “When I made the turn is when I screwed up.”
“I was fighting you because I was trying to stay on the center line,” Restrepo said. “We would have broken just a few lights and that’s it.”
Eyewitnesses, including a Port Authority officer waiting for Pence’s plane to arrive, told investigators that the jet was coming in too fast for the landing.
The 37 passengers, which also included Pence’s staff and journalists, were not injured, but some of the nine crew members were treated for back and other pain caused by the hard landing.
In releasing the statements and evidence, the NTSB said it was not making a conclusion on the cause of the hard landing but will start analyzing the flight recorder data and other material to determine what happened. Pilots who landed just before Pence’s plane reported rain and some wind turbulence but not any major problems, according to their statements to investigators.
According to his interview with investigators, Galloway warned his co-pilot that the plane was still too high over the runway and ordered him to “put it down.” The captain also told investigators that he “jumped on the brakes to do all he could to make it stop,” turning the jet onto the shoulders for a softer landing.
As the pilots waited for a staircase to be pushed to one of the plane’s left side doors, they discussed whether they should have aborted the landing and accelerated up to come back for another landing.
Then a flight attendant informed them that a Secret Service agent wanted to talk to them.
“My career just ended,” Galloway was heard saying.
Restrepo responds back: “Mine too. ”