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February 7th, 2008
08:20 PM ET

Shawna Shepherd: Adventures with Mike Huckabee

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(Left to right) – Shawna Shepherd, CNN; Matthew Berger, NBC; Matthew Philips, Newsweek; Kevin Chupka, ABC

Just when I thought covering Mike Huckabee's campaign couldn't be any more unpredictable, the press plane traveling from Little Rock to New York Thursday morning had to make an emergency landing.

The plane with Gov. Huckabee and his staff, including his daughter Sarah, arrived at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey without incident.

The press plane, a midsize (Hawker, I believe), traveling seven members of the press, landed early at Morristown Municipal Aiport in New Jersey, just south of Teterboro.  No one was injured.

It was a smooth flight from Little Rock, but as we flew over Philadelphia the plane suddenly dipped, losing a lot of altitude. Steve Coppin, CNN photojournalist, described the sensation as free-falling on a roller coaster and being lifted from your seat.  Everyone on the plane gasped loud enough for the pilots to hear.

I shook it off as bad turbulence or the consequence of being on a small plane.  At one point the sound of an alarm could be heard from the cock-pit. Newsweek reporter Matthew Philips looked at Coppin and said, "that didn't sound good."

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(Left to right) – Steve Coppin, CNN; Shawna Shepherd, CNN; Kevin Chupka, ABC

Being veteran flyers, we shook it off as just another really bumpy flight.  We began descending earlier than we expected and the plane began swaying from side to side like a seesaw.  It was unsettling watching the pilots in the cock-pit quickly adjusting controls as they made the difficult landing. 

It wasn't until the plane came to a stop on the tarmac that the pilots told us there was a problem with the plane and they had to make an emergency landing. One of the pilots said it was "pretty serious" and explained that they lost flight controls and had trouble maintaining altitude.

The pilots said they both needed all their strength to land the plane manually.  A fire truck was on the tarmac as a precaution, and when the cabin door opened we were greeted by a firefighter in a protective silver fire suit.

Only hours later, this frightening experience became an afterthought, as former Gov. Mitt Romney suspended his campaign. 

– Shawna Shepherd, CNN Political Producer


Filed under: John McCain • Mike Huckabee • Mitt Romney • Raw Politics
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