OAKLAND (CBS-SF) – A Southwest Airlines flight heading from Oakland to Chicago’s Midway Airport safely made an emergency landing Wednesday at Oakland International after reportedly encountering an issue with its landing gear.
The flight – Southwest 2547 with 139 passengers on-board – circled above California’s Central Valley for nearly four hours to burn off fuel and finally made the approach to Oakland International around 10 a.m. It landed safely at about 10:15 a.m.
The flight took off from Oakland at 6:13 a.m. and immediately reported a problem.
“After takeoff, the Captain in Command made the decision to return to Oakland to check a maintenance item on the aircraft,” Southwest said in a prepared statement.
People on Southwest Flight 2547 knew almost immediately after takeoff that something was wrong. Originally, they thought it was an engine issue that the pilot thought could be resolved in a matter of minutes.
But it turned out to be much more serious. When the landing gear was being brought up after takeoff, some passengers saw sparks. The pilot then tried to bring the gear back down, but it wasn’t working.
Instead of continuing to Chicago, the pilot flew the Boeing 737 for four hours trying to burn off the majority of the 12,000 gallon fuel tank.
The plane kept making loops from Oakland to the area of Manteca and South Stockton. A passenger told KPIX 5 she was extremely nervous the whole time she was in the air.
“The worst part was the beginning because no one would tell us anything,” said Flight 2547 passenger Ashley Stasio. “Oh, I thought I was going to die. People were really scared. It made me feel good because the fact that it was such an emergency, they had a lot of backup and we’re all safe.”
Stasio said that before they descended passengers were told to brace themselves, but the landing went smoothly. People were clapping, cheering and crying as the plane came to a stop.
“People were holding hands. Everybody was on their phones, I’m sure sending messages to their loved ones,” Stasio said. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it was scary.”
Firefighters escorted the plane to the gate after the landing and turned it over to Southwest officials. The fire department had sent one truck and four engines in case the plane caught on fire, a fire dispatcher said.
The plane made a safe landing and was greeted by a convoy of emergency vehicles. Southwest later released a statement that said in part “our Oakland employees are working to get our 139 customers to their destinations. The aircraft will be taken out of service and inspected.”