United Flight Lands with Smoke, Dark Panel

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United Airlines, the FAA and NTSB are looking into an incident Monday in which a United Airlines Airbus A320 departed New Orleans and immediately declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit. As the situation progressed, the crew reported that it lost all power to its flight instrument, although the comm radios continued to function. The flight was en route from New Orleans to San Francisco when the incident occurred. The pilot told controllers: "Flight 497 we need to vector back to the airport. We have a smoke issue with the airplane." Shortly thereafter, the crew declared an emergency and landed at New Orleans, possibly with impaired braking and steering, since the aircraft exited the runway and got its nosewheel buried in mud. The emergency slides were deployed and all 105 passengers and crew exited safely.

It's not clear if smoke in the cockpit was so dense that the crew couldn't seen to navigate visually or if they were just too far from the airport to navigate back without vectors. The pilot told ATC that he had lost all instruments. Controllers got the airplane back on a heading toward New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Airport and cleared it to land. Most of the passengers were placed on later flights and arrived in San Francisco Monday afternoon.