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Southwest jet's landing gear collapses on landing, injuring 10

A Southwest jet's nose gear collapses on landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York. Hundreds of flights are delayed.

July 22, 2013|By Tina Susman
  • The landing gear of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 collapsed on landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York, causing minor injuries and temporarily closing the airport.
The landing gear of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 collapsed on landing… (John Minchillo / Associated…)

NEW YORK — Several people suffered minor injuries Monday when the front landing gear of a Southwest Airlines jet collapsed on touchdown in New York City, sending the Boeing 737-700 skidding hundreds of feet down a runway on its nose until it veered into a grassy area and ground to a halt.

Thomas Bosco, the general manager of LaGuardia Airport, where the accident occurred, said Flight 345 from Nashville was carrying 143 passengers and six crew members. At an evening news briefing, Bosco said 10 people — six passengers and four crew members — were treated at the scene for minor injuries. Six of those people were later taken to a hospital, he said, but none of the injuries were considered serious.

Photographs taken on the runway minutes after the incident showed the jet sitting at a steep tilt, its nose on the ground and emergency evacuation chutes deployed.

Bosco, also acting director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the area's major airports, said he was not aware of the flight crew reporting any problems with the landing gear before the touchdown.

A passenger, Kathy Boles, who was not injured, said the landing felt normal — until the nose came down.

"It was unlike any other landing," Boles, who was seated near the front of the plane, told CNN by phone. "It was just a bang and a bounce and then just a slam on the brakes and that skidding feeling. It was very clear … that something was really wrong and that we did not land on wheels on the front."

A man who was seated about five rows from the back of the jet also said there were no obvious signs of trouble before the landing, but he was struck by the pilot's instruction as the plane descended that people check their seat belts and their neighbors' seat belts.

"All of a sudden, this huge bang," the passenger, Frank Ferramosca, told CNN by phone, describing the moment when the nose hit the ground.

Whitney Eichinger, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based airline, said the flight landed at 5:40 p.m. Eastern time. "Eyewitness reports indicate the aircraft's nose gear collapsed upon landing," Eichinger said in a statement.

Southwest said 150 people were aboard, compared with 149 cited by Bosco. Bosco attributed the difference to the counting of an infant not riding in a separate seat. Passengers were evacuated with help of Port Authority police and other emergency responders and taken to a terminal.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was at the scene, and a Boeing spokesman said the company was ready to provide technical assistance as the investigation unfolded.

It was the second landing incident involving a Boeing aircraft in less than three weeks. On July 6, an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed on landing in San Francisco, leaving three passengers dead.

The Boeing 737 is the world's best-selling aircraft, and it is the only type of jet Southwest flies. Boeing builds the jet in Renton, Wash., and has delivered more than 7,600 of the planes since 1967.

The aircraft has run into safety issues before. In April 2011, a Southwest 737 made an emergency landing after a 5-by-1-foot section of fuselage burst open on a flight from Phoenix to Sacramento. Afterward, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered U.S. airlines to inspect their older and most heavily used Boeing 737s for fuselage cracks.

Monday evening's accident forced LaGuardia, which has just two runways, to close from 5:40 p.m. until about 7 p.m., delaying hundreds of flights. Hours after the incident, the disabled jet remained in place, and one of the runways remained out of use.

Bosco said airport officials had to assess possible runway damage and remove the jet before the runway could be reopened, which he hoped would happen in time for the first flights taking off Tuesday.

tina.susman@latimes.com

Times staff writer W.J. Hennigan in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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