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Airliner makes emergency landing

NEWARK, N.J. – A United Airlines jetliner landed Sunday without one of its wheels fully deployed, damaging its right wing after a frightening few moments for passengers, who were braced in the crash position before an “unbelievably smooth” touchdown that drew cheers.

All 53 people aboard got off the plane safely.

Flight 634 from Chicago was approaching Newark Liberty International Airport about 9 a.m. when the plane suddenly began ascending again, said passenger Paul Wasylyszyn, of Chicago.

The plane then began circling the airport, said Jim Falk of Middletown, N.J., who was sitting near the front of the plane.

“Normally a big plane like that doesn’t do a bypass, so we knew something was wrong.”

The captain then came over the intercom, advising the 48 passengers that there was “an issue” with one of the landing gears on the Airbus 319 and they were trying to fix it. The captain was composed about the announcements, several passengers said.

“They did a great job,” Falk said of the captain and crew.

When the aircraft landed, part of its belly struck the runway, United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

Passengers cheered when the plane came to a stop, Wasylyszyn said. Then they hurried out through the emergency exits, sliding down the chutes that had deployed and running toward Port Authority buses that were waiting to take them to the terminal, Falk said.

Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the right main landing gear did not extend, though its nose and left main landing gear did.