Friday, December 09, 2005


While listening to the NTSB press conference today, I was amazed at the stupid questions reporters asked regarding the cause of this crash.

One reporter wanted to know if the airport had a design flaw. I thought this was rather ignorant since Midway has had about a billion takeoffs and landings over the years, and if there were a flaw, I think it would've shown up by now.

Let's see, this pilot was landing in a blizzard, so do you think maybe, just maybe, the weather played a part?

When the lady from the NTSB started rattling off the black box information, I immediately thought of Greybeard, because he just posted about landing into the wind and why it's preferred. The pilot of this plane had a 9 knot tailwind at touchdown, and under poor braking conditions, this is huge. So, now, I'll do my own accident report and I bet I'm pretty close to the cause. Of course, I expect Greybeard to correct me since he's the expert on aviation.

The pilot's last information about braking conditions was "fair" to "poor." But during snowy conditions, the status of the runway can change in a matter of minutes. I think during the time he was configuring the aircraft for final approach, conditions on the runway went to "poor" to "nil." "Nil" would mean the airport is closed and he would be vectoring to O'Hare or the next best choice.

His landing airspeed was 124 knots, and with the tail wind of 9 knots, that would bring his landing airspeed to 133 knots. Under normal conditions, I think that would be deemed "a little fast." Under icy conditions, it would be "coming in hot." And, under acceptable conditions, his point of touchdown would be normal, but under icy braking conditions, his landing would be considered long. In other words, he wasn't stopping his aircraft in time. With the "poor" runway conditions, he would almost have to put down on the runway threshold to get it stopped in time. So, I think the pilot was the victim of bad information and did the best he could. Of course, during the investigation, there will be much "ass covering" going on as to the accuracy of the info given to the cockpit.

Southwest is one of the safest airlines in operation; here's some brief reports about their last two incidents. The second report, and they're short, is the most interesting one of all. Southwest likes to say they've never had anyone die on-board as a result of an accident, and, technically, that's true. However, a few years back, someone died.

Greybeard: Why would they have the pilot land downwind in a storm?

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