Southwest Airlines Flight 345's nose gear "collapsed rearward," NTSB says

NEW YORK The National Transportation Safety Board says the nose gear of a Southwest Airlines jet collapsed backward and into the body of the aircraft following a hard landing at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

The NTSB found the landing gear "collapsed rearward and upward into the fuselage, damaging the electronics bay that houses avionics."

The agency said on its Twitter feed the plane skidded 2,175 feet before stopping at the edge of the runway Monday.

CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports that, according to Southwest, the plane was last inspected July 18 and that the aircraft entered service in October 1999. Investigators will be looking at whether the plane's landing gear was part of that inspection.

The NTSB posted a photo showing the jet's electronics bay penetrated by the landing gear with only the right axle still attached.

Investigators recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders on Tuesday. Officials say the recorders were sent to the agency's lab in Washington for downloading and analysis.

The nose gear of Southwest Airlines Flight 345 arriving from Nashville, Tenn., collapsed Monday right after the plane touched down on the runway.

"When we got ready to land, we nosedived," said a passenger, Sgt. 1st Class Anniebell Hanna of the South Carolina National Guard.

Ten passengers were treated at the scene, and six were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, said Thomas Bosco, acting director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the area airports. The six crew members were taken to another hospital for observation.

Bosco said there was no advance warning of any possible problem before the landing.

He said the nose gear of the plane collapsed when it landed at 5:40 p.m., and "the aircraft skidded down the runway on its nose and then veered off and came to rest in the grass area."

He said the collapse closed the airport for more than an hour. Both of the airport's runways were back in use by Tuesday morning, a Port Authority spokesman said, and the plane was moved to a hangar.

Dallas-based Southwest said 150 people were on the flight.

The flight was delayed leaving Nashville. Hanna said passengers heard an announcement saying "something was wrong with a tire." She and some family members were coming to New York for a visit. She said that when the plane landed, she hit her head hard against the seat in front of her.

The passengers exited the plane by using chutes. They were put on a bus and taken to the terminal. Besides the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

The landing gear collapse came 16 days after Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco's airport, killing two Chinese teenagers; a third was killed when a fire truck ran over her while responding to the crash, authorities said. Dozens of people were injured in that landing, which involved a Boeing 777 flying from South Korea.

Longtime pilot Patrick Smith, author of "Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel. Questions, Answers, and Reflections" and AskthePilot.com, said landing gear issues are not high on the list of worries for pilots.

"From a pilot's perspective, this is nearly a non-issue," he said. "They make for good television, but this is far down the list of nightmares for pilots."

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