Thrust reversers failed in deadly
2:49 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2005
Southwest crew tells investigators
braking devices didn’t kick in
CHICAGO - The reverse thrusters that should have slowed a Southwest
Airlines jetliner before it slid off a runway at Midway Airport and into the street didn’t immediately kick in when the pilots tried to
deploy them, federal investigators said Saturday after interviewing the crew.
of a role that braking equipment played in Thursday’s deadly accident wasn’t immediately clear, though, and the
investigation is continuing.
flight attendants told investigators that the Boeing 737 didn’t appear to slow after it touched down at Midway in a
snowstorm Thursday, said Robert Benzon, the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigator in charge.
all said it was a smooth landing but they could sense a lack of deceleration,” Benzon said.
the pilots told investigators they began applying the brakes manually as soon as they noticed that the plane wasn’t
slowing properly. The plane, with 98 passengers aboard, slid through a fence and into street traffic, where it killed a six-year-old
boy in a car.
of the blowing snow, none of the air traffic controllers actually saw the plane land, but more than 10 cameras have been identified
that could provide additional information, including details about the runway conditions, Benzon said.
workers used a crane with a sling to lift the damaged airliner off the city street and into a hangar for further inspections.
said the captain piloting Thursday’s flight has been with the airline for more than 10 years, and the first officer
has flown with Southwest for 2½ years. It was the first fatal crash in the airline’s 35-year history.
had been landing in a snowstorm when it slid off the end of the 6,500-foot runway, plowed through a fence and struck two cars.
Ten people, most of them on the ground, were injured and the boy was killed in a car driven by his father.
voice and data recorders were sent to Washington for analysis,
NTSB member Ellen Engleman Conners said.
the airport had about 7 inches of snow at the time, aviation officials said conditions were acceptable. Southwest chief executive
Gary Kelly said on Friday that the plane had recently had a maintenance check and showed no signs of problems.
— built in 1923 and surrounded by houses and businesses — is among nearly 300 U.S. commercial airports without 1,000-foot buffer zones at the ends of runways.
experts suggest the airports guard against accidents by using beds of crushable concrete that can slow an aircraft if it slides
off the runway’s end.
concrete beds — called Engineered Material Arresting Systems — are installed at 18 runways at 14 airports. They
have stopped dangerous overruns three times since May 1999 at Kennedy Airport in New York.
Department of Aviation spokeswoman Wendy Abrams could not immediately say whether an arresting system had been considered
pilots say relatively short runways like Midway’s pose a challenge in icy or snowy weather, forcing them to touch down
as close as possible to the beginning of the runway to allow more braking time.
not a place you can be a little off,” said Richard Ward, a retired United Airlines pilot who occasionally flew into
Midway. “You don’t have the variable of a long runway to correct any errors.”