March 14 (Reuters) - A tire blew out on a U.S. Airways plane with 154 passengers and crew on board as it was speeding down the runway at Philadelphia International Airport on Thursday, prompting the pilot to abort the takeoff, officials said.
There were no reports of serious injuries in the early evening incident on Flight 1702 bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said two passengers were hospitalized, one with a minor injury and one with a minor illness.
Initial indications are that the plane, an Airbus A320, was just beginning to lift off when the tire blew, and soon afterward the nose gear collapsed, according to airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica.
The pilot then elected to abort takeoff, said U.S. Airways spokesman William McGlashen.
The pilot appears to have done a good job handling the situation, Joe Taney, vice president of operations for American/U.S. Airways, told reporters.
“We assume he did, based on the fact that everyone is safe and everyone got down safe and evacuated safely and everyone was well taken care of, so I assume our captain did a great job on the aircraft and he should be commended.”
The jet’s five crew members evacuated the 149 passengers by having them slide down emergency chutes after the incident which took place at about 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205 GMT), said McGlashen.
Firefighters sprayed foam around the plane as a precaution to prevent any flare-up, and although smoke wafted from one engine, there was no fuel leak and no open flames were seen, Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Loesch said.
The mishap halted take-offs and landings on all four runways at the Philadelphia airport for a time, officials said.
Three of four runways later resumed normal operations, and the tilted U.S. Airways plane was set to be towed away at about 1 a.m. local time on Friday, allowing the fourth runway to return to normal operations early in the morning, she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident, McGlashen said.
The passengers were bused back to an airport terminal and arrangements were made to fly them to Fort Lauderdale on another aircraft, officials said.
“Morning operations are not impacted and we do not plan on them being impacted,” the airport said in a Twitter message in response to a passenger’s questions about flight delays.
Hannah Udren, 18, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was taking the plane to visit family in Florida. “We were just entering the air and the front of the plane went down and hit the runway, and then popped back up and hit it again.”
U.S. Airways is owned by American Airlines Group Inc .