Smoke forces evacuation of flight at Pittsburgh International

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PITTSBURGH —

A United Airlines maintenance team is trying to determine what caused a report of smoke aboard a United Express flight from Newark, New Jersey to Pittsburgh International Airport Monday night.

Pittsburgh airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said the flight landed safely at 9:53 p.m. Monday, but passengers had to get off the plane on the runway as a precaution.

“Everyone stayed pretty calm. The flight crew did a pretty good job of keeping everyone calm and telling everyone we are going to make it,” said Luigic Forte, who was evacuated from the plane.

Shuttle buses took the passengers to their gate.

“I was catching everyone as they were coming out,” Forte said.

The flight crew alerted the control tower at the Pittsburgh airport about spotting the smoke about a half-hour before the flight landed.

“It got hard to breathe. It was just terrifying not knowing if it’s going to go from bad to worse,” said Forte. “It went from bad to worse pretty quick. It filled the whole cabin and it was pretty heavy like an electrical smell. I was in the back seat and could barely see halfway up the cabin.”

Emergency crews found no fire on the plane and couldn't find the source of the smoke.

The runway was closed until about 10:15 p.m. when the plane was towed to the gate.

United spokeswoman Mary Ryan said the smoke appeared to be coming from the plane's cargo area. Maintenance crews were inspecting the plane on Tuesday.

The Q400 aircraft was carrying 59 passengers and four crew members.

The Associated Press and Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.