A JetBlue airliner with faulty landing gear touched down safely at Los Angeles International Airport after circling the region for three hours with its front wheels turned sideways, unable to be retracted into the plane.
The pilot landed on the back wheels, then eased onto the awry front tires, which shot flames along the runway before they tore off. The metal landing gear scraped for the final meters as the plane came to a stop.
Within minutes of landing on Wednesday, the plane's door opened and the 140 passengers walked down a stairway with their luggage and onto the tarmac, where buses waited.
"We all cheered. I was bawling. I cried so much," said Christine Lund, 25.
Passengers said they had watched their own drama unfolding on the news on in-flight televisions until just before the landing. One described it as surreal to watch. Another said she would have been calmer without it.
"At the end it was the worst because you didn't know if it was going to work, if we would catch fire. It was very scary. Grown men were crying," said Diane Hamilton, 32, a television graphics specialist.
As the plane was about to touch the ground, Hamilton said, crew members ordered people to assume a crash position, putting their heads between their knees.
"They would yell, `Brace! Brace! Brace!'" she said. "I thought this would be it."
The plane landed on an auxiliary runway where fire trucks and emergency crews had massed as a precaution. No injuries were immediately reported among the passengers and six crew members, fire officials said.
"It was a very, very smooth landing. The pilot did an outstanding job," said fire battalion chief Lou Roupoli. "There was a big hallelujah and a lot of clapping on that aircraft."
JetBlue flight 292 had left Bob Hope Airport in Burbank at 3:17pm for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin said.
The Airbus A320 first circled the Long Beach Airport, about 50km south of Burbank, then was cleared to land at Los Angeles International Airport. It stayed aloft to burn off fuel and lighten its weight, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Donn Walker said.