NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The pilot who made a remarkable emergency landing in Poland said Wednesday he didn't really relax until he got word that all the passengers had gotten off the plane safely.
Capt. Tadeusz Wrona, 54, is being hailed as a hero for safely landing a LOT Boeing 767 -- carrying 231 passengers and crew from Newark, N.J. -- on its belly at Warsaw's Frederic Chopin International Airport after the plane's landing gear failed to deploy.
"When I stopped on the runway, I still was not sure that everyone was safe because smoke and some burning from friction appeared on the ground,'' Wrona said. "I felt huge relief when the head flight attendant reported that the plane was empty.''
Wrona insists that calling him a hero is an exaggeration saying, "I am absolutely sure that each of us would have done it the same way, and that the result would have been the same. We tried to put the plane down as gently as we could and we were successful.''
Still, Wrona said he has played the entire thing over in his head and wonders if he could have done better.
Passengers were well aware of the emergency situation as the plane circled for more than an hour.
"Everyone was crying around us, everyone was praying," passenger Angelika Borowska said.
But when they landed all that went away.
"I still had my head down crying, everyone else was clapping, then all of a sudden we hear the alarm, everyone gets up, we see smoke and we just run off the plane as quickly as possible and they told us to run into the field as far away as you can," Borowska said.
The flight controller who helped direct the incredible maneuver said time was on their side as the plane circled.
"So we could discuss and think things over and over again and ask ourselves question if you can do anything more for them. So it's good that we had the time," the flight controller said.
The airline said the plane suffered a "central hydraulic system failure" which kept the wheels and undercarriage from extending.
"I have flown this plane 500 times and this is the first time the undercarriage did not open,'' Wrona said.
The jet has been in service since 1997.
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