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Mike Pence’s airplane skids off LaGuardia runway

Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, answers questions about the plane carrying Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence which skidded off a rain-slicked runway as it landed at LaGuardia Airport on Oct. 27, 2016. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

This story was reported by Laura Blasey, Matthew Chayes, Chau Lam and Ellen Yan.

The campaign plane carrying Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence skidded off a rain-slicked runway as it landed Thursday night at LaGuardia Airport.

Pence told reporters with him on the Boeing 737-700 charter that he was fine and no one on board appeared to be injured.

Shortly after evacuating the aircraft with others, Pence sent out a tweet thanking emergency officials.

“So thankful everyone on our plane is safe. Grateful for our first responders & the concern & prayers of so many. Back on the trail tomorrow!”

In Geneva, Ohio, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told his supporters that his running mate had come “pretty close to grave, grave danger.” But he added: “I just spoke to Mike Pence and he’s fine. Everybody’s fine.”

The plane, which had taken off hours earlier from an airport in Fort Dodge, Iowa, after a Pence rally there, carried 37 passengers and 11 crew members, Port Authority officials said at a LaGuardia news conference.

Most of those on board were Pence’s staff and journalists covering his daily appearances on the campaign trail.

The aircraft made its final approach from the southwest and came to a stop several hundred feet from the Grand Central Parkway, which passes directly to the south of the airport.

Passengers said as the aircraft flew over the city in preparation to land, it knifed through hard rain, strong winds and thick fog. Turbulence jostled the twin-engine jet. When the plane hit the 7,000-foot Runway 22 at 7:49 p.m., it vibrated and then jerked violently while continuing its slide.

“You could feel the plane skidding,” said Elizabeth Landers, a CNN producer, seated in the back of the plane, in an interview on the network. “ . . . it felt like it fishtailed.”

Officials said that after reaching the runway’s end, the plane slammed into protective barriers before careening into a grassy patch thick with rain-soaked mud. The heavy wheels of the jet sank into the grass.

The barriers, blocks of lightweight, crushable cement known as “arrestor beds,” are designed to slow or stop an aircraft that has overshot the runway.

Officials said the impact destroyed 80 of the barriers.

The plane will remain where it came to a stop until investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board can do their inspection, Port Authority officials.

NTSB investigators are expected to arrive Friday morning, according to agency spokesman Peter Knudson. He said they intend to piece together what caused the landing problems and also check the plane’s maintenance records and how well the arrestor beds worked.

“There’s a lot of information we hope to learn from this,” Knudson said.

The aircraft sustained no damage, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, at a news conference just before 10 p.m.

Not long after the 737 landed, dozens of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles raced to the scene, lights flashing and sirens blaring as they approached.

Fire and rescue crews responded within one minute of the first reports of the plane’s skid, Foye said, adding that he would not comment on the speed of the plane as it landed “or the cause of the incident.”

Responders arrived to find Pence and the other passengers milling about the tarmac in heavy rain. On the exterior of the jet, the familiar Trump/Pence campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” was painted on the side. An American flag stretched across its tail.

Live news footage showed Pence on the tarmac speaking with firefighters and other emergency responders, shaking hands and even taking pictures with members of the rescue crews.

The airport, which was closed to all flights immediately after the landing, partly reopened at about 9:15 p.m., with Runway 13 operating. Runway 22, where Pence’s jet landed, remained shut late Thursday night, officials said, and they gave no estimate when it would reopen.

After the aircraft touched down, everyone on board remained relatively calm, even after the pilot hit the brakes so hard that travelers could smell burning rubber.

Landers said the jet “was not in control on the runway . . . the plane came to a sudden stop.”

As the plane approached the airport, the rain and fog kept visibility to a minimum, she said, and the strong winds produced heavy turbulence, wobbling the plane.

In the back with other journalists, Landers said she saw Secret Service agents immediately “jump up” after the aircraft stopped, and raced to the front cabin where Pence was seated.

Landers said the next thing she saw was the vice-presidential nominee walking down the plane’s aisle to check on passengers’ conditions.

Pence told reporters on board that mud splashed on the front windows of the cockpit, she said.

In a tweet about three hours before the landing, Pence posted a photo of himself with his campaign plane in the background, throwing a football, with the message, “A ground hold at LaGuardia led to some football on the tarmac in Iowa. #GameOn.”

Earlier in the day, Pence had held a 1:30 p.m. campaign rally at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge before climbing aboard the jet for the flight to New York City.

Pence had been scheduled to attend a fundraiser in the city Thursday night, but his appearance was canceled and he “was headed to his hotel for the night,” said a spokesman for his campaign, Marc Loeter.

Past aircraft incidents at LaGuardia Airport

July 22, 2013. Nose gear on a Southwest Airlines jet landing at airport collapses, sending the aircraft skidding down the runway and injuring 10 of the 143 passengers.

Oct. 19, 1996. Delta Air Lines jetliner skids off runway while landing in a nor’easter. The plane stops just short of Flushing Bay, with 63 passengers and crew.

March 2, 1994. Continental Airlines Flight 795, with 110 passengers and six crew, aborts takeoff during a snowstorm when cockpit instruments malfunction. Seven people suffer minor injuries as the plane skids to a stop just 4 feet from Flushing Bay.

March 22, 1992. Twenty-seven people are killed and 24 injured when USAir Flight 405, attempting to take off in a snowstorm, runs off the runway into Flushing Bay.

Sept. 20, 1989. Two people are killed when a USAir Boeing 737 plane bound for Charlotte, North Carolina, with 62 people on board slides off the end of the runway into the East River during takeoff.

Jan. 31, 1982. Six passengers suffer cuts and bruises while making emergency exits from an Eastern Airlines Boeing 727 after the landing gear collapses on touchdown.

Feb. 1, 1957. Shortly after takeoff, a Northeast flight to Miami crashes on Rikers Island, killing 20

May 29, 1947. A United Airlines plane crashes through a fence during an aborted takeoff and catches fire, killing 48 of the 91 on board.


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