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JetBlue plane tips backward due to “shift in weight” as passengers get off at JFK Airport

By Tim McNicholas

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    NEW YORK, New York (WCBS) — A weight shift caused a JetBlue plane to abruptly tilt back while passengers were getting off at a gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Many passengers had already left the plane when the tail took an abrupt dip.

“It felt like the plane was about to do a backflip,” said Sinead Bovell, a futurist and the founder of a tech education company called Waye.

The plane arrived at JFK from Bridgetown, Barbados shortly before 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Bovell said it dipped when some on board were standing up to get their luggage.

“Everybody kind of screamed and was grabbing for seats. Anybody who was standing up was grabbing for seats,” said Bovell.

According to Bovell, the plane and jet bridge were damaged.

“It was a really good thing there was nobody specifically stepping out at that point in time,” said Bovell.

JetBlue said no one was hurt and that the airline is reviewing what happened.

A JetBlue spokesperson told CBS New York the plane was removed from service for inspection.

“On Sunday, October 22, JetBlue flight 662 landed as scheduled at New York’s JFK Airport from Bridgetown, Barbados. Once at the gate, due to a shift in weight and balance during deplaning, the tail of the aircraft tipped backward causing the nose of the aircraft to lift up and eventually return back down. No injuries were reported,” the statement read. “Safety is JetBlue’s first priority; we are reviewing this incident, and the aircraft has been taken out of service for inspection.”

Laura Einsetler, a commercial airline pilot, said crews typically unload cargo from the rear of the plane as passengers from the front get off.

That’s likely not what happened Sunday night, she said.

“In this case, what happened, everything came off the front half of the airline and so it was a tail tip like that,” said Einsetler.

Bovell was returning from speaking with students and tech enthusiasts in Barbados. She left feeling inspired and motivated, but anxiety temporarily replaced those feelings when she said the crew directed passengers to spread out to try to rebalance the plane.

Eventually, it worked.

“The flight attendants, they did a really great job in keeping everybody calm,” said Bovell.

Crews sometimes use a device called a tail stand to try to prevent planes from tilting. We asked JetBlue if one was being used on this plane and are waiting to hear back.

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