Daily Archives: November 21, 2010

Boston-To-Chicago Plane Forced To Make Emergency Landing

Published November 21, 2010

Sometimes WBUR reporters don’t just report the news. Hubbub’s Andrew Phelps experienced a news story on Sunday. Still in transit, Phelps isn’t able to blog about it, so I’m relaying his story.


The cracked windshield in the cockpit of United Flight 881 (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

Traveling home for Thanksgiving is always a hassle, but it’s exponentially more difficult when your plane’s windshield shatters mid-flight.

WBUR’s Andrew Phelps found that out first-hand Sunday.

While en route from Boston to Chicago, United Airlines flight 881 was forced to make an emergency landing in Buffalo due to what the pilot described as a crack in the windshield of the Boeing 757.

I’m sure the many of you who follow Phelps (@andrewphelps ) on twitter were as shocked as I was to see this tweet, sent after 10 a.m.:

We just made an emergency landing in Buffalo, United flight 881 to ORD. Crack in the windshield.

An emergency landing? Surely even Phelps, an intrepid reporter who often uses Twitter to report the news, wouldn’t tweet from a plane in peril, I thought. He must, at least, be alright.

Minutes later, Phelps explained what happened in this tweet:

Pilot says a heating element in between panes of glass failed, so they disabled it. Five minutes later, a crack formed. Fire crew on board.

The plane landed safely in Buffalo, where Phelps and the other passengers disembarked the plane. Phelps was able to investigate the situation in the cockpit and snap the picture you see above.

Though the pilot described the problem as a “crack,” the plane’s windshield seemed in much more serious condition, Phelps said.

“One third of the windshield shattered,” Phelps said, reporting from Buffalo’s airport.

None of the passengers was hurt.

After posting these and other updates on Twitter, Phelps received a information from people following the story across the country.

Just after 3 p.m., still stuck in the Buffalo airport because of weather issues and overtaxed gate agents, Phelps summarized his findings in this tweet:

So a window heater caused a fire in a Boeing 757 in May and grounded 2 others in the past 3 days, one being mine.

On Friday, a Delta flight from Atlanta to Santa Ana California was forced to land in Dallas.

Finally, just after 4 p.m. — seven hours after he arrived at Boston’s Logan airport — Phelps and the other passengers got back on another 757 to Chicago. The almost 200 passengers on Phelps’ flight aren’t the only ones still searching for answers to this bizarre travel saga.

As Phelps tweeted just before (re-)take off:

Glad to be alive, safe, and on my way again. When I get back, I’ll be asking Boeing and UAL for answers.