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Clarksville, TN – When Emmett Shaffer boarded Southwest Airlines flight #345, bound for New York, it was just another business trip. Shaffer was headed to New York for the week to work with some new clients on behalf of his employer, J&J Worldwide Services.
Little did he know, that on this flight, he was in danger. He could have been killed.
We never think about that.Southwest flight #345 left Nashville at 1:55pm and reported landing gear problems to air traffic controllers as it approached LaGuardia. The plane had 150 people on board, including Shaffer. Shaffer told Clarksville Online that everything seemed to be fairly routine, and there was no indication of any problems.
“We encountered some turbulence as we approached New York, but I didn’t think anything about that. The pilot never made any announcement about landing gear problems, but some of the people sitting in the front of the plane said there was another pilot being shuttled to New York, and he told them that the landing gear was causing problems, but we never heard anything where I was sitting” said Shaffer.
The plane was put into a holding pattern while pilots tried to figure out what to do, but even that didn’t bother Shaffer.
“We didn’t think anything about being in a holding pattern, because it’s so busy at these airports, it’s not unusual to have a delay in landing. I really didn’t suspect any problems.”
According to a report on Fox News, pilot Patrick Smith said, “Landing gear problems aren’t something pilots usually worry about. It doesn’t happen very often, but I need to emphasize just how comparatively minor this is and how far, far down the hierarchy it is. From a pilot’s perspective, this is nearly a non-issue.”
Tell that to the 150 passengers on board flight #345, ten of whom were treated for minor injuries after the incident.
“We hit really, REALLY hard” said Shaffer. “Sparks were flying everywhere, and things in the cabin started tumbling forward. Cell phones, computers and personal belongings were hurled toward the front of the plane” according to Shaffer. “The guy I was sitting with noticed that when we got over the airport, we dropped really quickly, and he said, “this is going to be a hard one.””
The plane reportedly slid over 2100 feet before coming to a stop in the grass on the runway.
“The impact of the landing knocked the pilots out” said Shaffer. “That’s why we never heard anything from the cockpit after we landed. Finally, one of the flight attendants stood up and told us to remain in our seats, and they started their emergency procedures.”
Once the passengers realized what had happened, they began to follow orders to get off of the airplane. Shaffer realized that things could get real bad real quick once they came to a stop.
“I was thinking that the more we sat there, the potential for things getting bad real quick was a possibility. I felt lucky that I wasn’t injured, and I just wanted to get away from the plane. God was looking over us for sure.” “There was a lot of smoke and the smell of burning rubber, but I didn’t panic” Shaffer said. “I just figured if God wanted this to be my time, then so be it, but it was kind of surreal and it was over really quick.”
Was there panic on board?
“As you can imagine, in light of the recent San Francisco tragedy, people were pretty upset. There was a lot of yelling and screaming, but for the most part the flight attendants did a good job in calming everybody down and getting them off the plane” according to Shaffer. “To be honest with you, I thought it was pretty cool to slide down the escape ladder. I’ve always wanted to do that” said Emmett.
“I just told her what happened and if she saw it on the news, I wanted her to know I was alright.” “Then I messaged my parents and told them the news so everybody would know I was ok” Shaffer said.
Shaffer is scheduled to fly home on Friday, and has no apprehensions about flying again, or flying on Southwest.
“I’m scheduled to fly home on Friday, and I’m not the least bit concerned about it. I just want to get home and give my family a hug. I had those brief thoughts of my son and my wife, and what if I didn’t ever see them again, but that was over pretty quickly. I was just happy to be ok and off of that plane” said Shaffer.
The crash landing of flight #345 is still under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board and a final report is expected in the coming weeks. But for one Clarksville man, it’s a memory he’ll have for the rest of his life.
Oh, and he got to slide down the slide. That was the fun part.
Hank Bonecutter is a forty year broadcast veteran and former radio station owner. His career included, talk-show host, journalist, writer, and producer. He is president of Bonehead Promotions, an advertising consulting and media firm. He is the owner of www.clarksvillesportsnetwork.com and www.nashvillesportsnetwork.com, and is a contributing author/journalist for Clarksville Online.
Hank worked at several Nashville radio stations, including WKDF, WLAC, WKQB and WKDA.
He hosted and produced Clarksville’s longest running morning talk-show, “The Bone Show,” from 1994-2012.
Hank is also a stand-up comedian, having performed at some of the top comedy clubs in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.
Hank produced a series of stand-up comedy shows, “Comedy on the Cumberland, ” in Clarksville to benefit local charities.
You can follow Hank on Facebook and Twitter, @bonecutter01 and @boneheadnews.
TopicsAirports, Cell Phones, Clarksville Online, Clarksville TN, Cockpit, computers, Crash Landing, Emmett Shaffer, FAA, Flight Attendants, Fox News, God, J&J Worldwide Services, Jessica Shaffer, LaGuardia Airport, Landing Gear, National Transportation Safety Board, New York, Panic, Patrick Smith, Personal Belongings, Pilots, San Francisco, Southwest, Southwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines Flight #345, Turbulence
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