I first read about this story a couple of days ago, though it wasn’t until I listened to the ATC audio that I truly realized how severe this situation was.
On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, a Republic Airways Embraer 175 operating a flight on behalf of American Eagle had a serious situation. The flight was operating from Atlanta to New York LaGuardia as AA4439 with a total of six people.
That’s the first shocking detail here — given that there were two pilots and two flight attendants, that means there were just two passengers. WOW.
Anyway, the plane took off from Atlanta’s runway 9L, and the crew declared an emergency about four minutes after takeoff, noting that they had a trim runaway (essentially they weren’t able to control the climb of the plane).
The pilot noted that they were in a stall situation, and that they couldn’t keep the pitch down (meaning that they couldn’t angle the nose down). The pilot also mentions that they had been “fighting the aircraft.”
I got goosebumps when I heard the audio of the pilot saying “we’re in a stalling situation… agh!”
The plane kept climbing even though the pilots tried to stop it. The plane eventually made it up to nearly 15,000 feet, before the pilots managed to regain control and have the plane return to Atlanta. Apparently they managed to disable some of the controls, and make it so that the first officer’s controls were working.
The plane landed back in Atlanta just under 20 minutes after it took off, with no injuries or damage.
You can listen to the full ATC audio here:
These pilots deserve huge credit for their fast thinking and handling of this situation. What absolute professionals, along with the air traffic controller as well.
Given the trim runaway and stall “situation,” I can’t help but wonder if the results might have been different if there weren’t just two passengers onboard? The plane could have had 74 more passengers, so with bags and everything that could have potentially been an extra 15,000+ pounds. The higher the weight the higher the stall speed. I’d be curious if any jet pilots could chime in on whether that could have impacted the performance in a situation like this?
Regardless, I’m so relieved this ended the way it did, and huge credit goes to the pilots for their handling of this.
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)