united_plane.jpgA United Airlines plane headed to San Francisco from New Orleans this morning had to make an emergency landing after experiencing mechanical problems, an airline spokesman said.

The incident came about 12 hours after another Bay Area flight had to be diverted, this one a Southwest Airlines plane headed from Oakland to San Diego on Sunday night, due to a burning electrical smell in the cabin.

Hundreds of other Bay Area flights have also been canceled or delayed since a hole tore open in a Southwest plane going to Sacramento from Phoenix on Friday.

Shortly before 7:10 a.m. local time, United Airlines Flight 497 took off from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport with 104 passengers and five crewmembers on board, airport spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut said.

Minutes later, the crew reported smoke in the cockpit of the Airbus A320 plane and returned to New Orleans for an emergency landing, Wilcut said.

After touching down at the airport, the plane’s nose wheel went off the edge of the runway, she said. All passengers and the crew evacuated the plane through emergency slides, and no injuries were reported.

The passengers were taken to the airline’s facility at the airport and had not been transferred to another flight as of 9:30 a.m., she said.

In Sunday night’s incident, there were 137 passengers and five crewmembers aboard Flight 1588, which took off from Oakland International Airport at 7:17 p.m.

While headed to San Diego, the pilot detected “some sort of electrical smell” in the plane’s cabin, and diverted the flight to Los Angeles International Airport “out of an abundance of caution,” Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins said.

The plane safely landed in Los Angeles, and the passengers were transferred to a different airplane. They then continued their flight to San Diego, where they landed at 10:28 p.m.

Hawkins said, “There is no evidence of anything electrical that had happened,” but he said officials are continuing to investigate the incident.

The plane was a Boeing 737, the same model as the Sacramento-bound one that had a hole ripped in its roof Friday, but Hawkins said the incidents are unrelated.

Southwest has inspected dozens of their planes since Friday’s incident, and found three other aircraft with subsurface cracks. Those planes will remain out of service until repairs are completed, according to airline officials.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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