UPDATE II: Here's an update from the New York Times Magazine editor, which seems to confirm at least the existence of he flight.
Hey, remember that time here in Philadelphia that a Denver-bound commercial jet with "failed" landing gear circled the airport runway for two long hours while emergency personnel assembled on the tarmac and the captain cut all electricity, yelled back commands from the cockpit and finally cut the power to the engines before a miraculously safe landing?
Yeah...me neither. Indeed, I've worked here at the Daily News for 18 years and have no recollection of such a story, and a search of both Google and another search tool commonly used by journalists called Nexis did not turn up any articles about an emergency landing here in Philly by a plane that was headed for the Mile High City. Nonetheless, the episode made for a riveting essay by Noah Gallagher Shannon that was published in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine.
Indeed, the story is so spellbinding, and some of the details so incredible, that some journalists and online sleuths are asking questions today about whether it really happened, at least the way it was written up. One discussion thread on the site Metafilter raised some very interesting issues with some of the details, and Gene Weingarten, the Pulitzer Prize-winning features writer for the Washington Post, said in an online commentary that the piece "bothers me."
Now, the journalism blogger Jim Romenesko is on the case:
I asked Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren and public editor Margaret Sullivan about the essay. I'm waiting to hear from Lindgren, but Sullivan wrote in an email: "I understand that editors are looking into questions that have been raised about 'The Plane Was About to Crash' … [but] as of right now, the public editor's office isn't involved. That usually comes later in the process, if needed."
Look, I know the New York Times employs fact checkers, and a lot of these questions would have -- and may yet -- melted away with just one or two identifying details, like the name of the airline. I think it's important to remember a) the innocent until proven guilty rule and b) that it's definitely possible that if the landing gear was down and the plane landed safety it would have been deemed not newsworthy at the time. I certainly hope the tale is confirmed and that this well-written piece advances the career of the young Mr. Shannon. But since it's a Philadelphia story, I thought the questions should be posted here. Can anyone down at the airport confirm Shannon's story...or prove him wrong?
UPDATE — Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren writes in an email: "We are still looking into whether a couple of small details were not as precise as they should've been, but we are confident that the story is not made-up."