Flight delays began easing at New York’s LaGuardia airport with the reopening of a runway closed when a Southwest Airlines Co. jet bellied onto the ground when its nose gear collapsed on landing.
Some arrivals ran almost 90 minutes late after the strip went back into operation about 7 a.m. Tuesday after Monday’s accident. Flight 345 came to rest with its front end flat on the ground and emergency evacuation slides deployed, snarling traffic in the busiest U.S. air-travel market.
While Southwest reported six injuries among the 150 people aboard the Boeing Co. 737-700, and dramatic photos and videos flooded social-media websites, the incident ended without serious harm beyond the damage done to the jet. The episode was a “very rare occurrence” for the industry and Southwest, John Nance, a former 737 pilot, said in a telephone interview.
“They’ve got superlative maintenance,” said Nance, who runs consulting firm John Nance & Associates in University Place, Washington. “The reality is there is so little that goes wrong with the system, unless we started having one of these on a regular basis, this really isn’t something anybody should be worrying about.”
Flights were experiencing “residual delays” following the reopening of the runway, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the operator of the region’s three major airports.
Some inbound planes averaged delays of one hour, 27 minutes as of 8:37 a.m. New York time, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s website, which listed “traffic management” as a cause. Thunderstorms rumbled across the region Tuesday, adding to the air-traffic tangles.
Counting arrivals and departures, New York’s three major airports had more than 220 cancellations, of 291 reported in the U.S., according to industry data tracker FlightAware.com. LaGuardia’s tally alone topped 100 flights.
Flight 345 was arriving from Nashville, Tennessee, at about 5:45 p.m. yesterday when the gear failed. A U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigator was looking into the case, as was the FAA, according to agency statements.
“Eyewitness reports indicate the aircraft’s nose gear collapsed upon landing,” Dallas-based Southwest said in a statement. The FAA initially said the crew reported landing-gear issues while nearing the airport. Then the agency withdrew that assertion and said the case remained under investigation.
Planes with a so-called tricycle gear like the 737 touch down first with their rear main wheels, then lower the nose as they decelerate and complete their rollout. The FAA said Flight 345 landed on Runway 4, which according to industry website AirNav.com is 7,001 feet long.
Three customers and three crew members were transported to local hospitals, and all except one passenger had been released as of today, Whitney Eichinger, a Southwest spokeswoman, said by phone. The carrier isn’t disclosing details of the injuries, she said.
Southwest is the largest operator of the Boeing 737, a single-aisle, twin-engine plane that is the world’s most widely flown jetliner. The accident was the third this month, with varying degrees of severity, involving a Boeing jet.
On July 6, a Boeing 777 flown by Asiana Airlines Inc. crashed on landing in San Francisco, leaving three people dead and scores injured. On July 12, an empty 787 Dreamliner operated by Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise caught fire on the ground at London’s Heathrow airport.
Delta Air Lines Inc., the biggest carrier at LaGuardia, issued a waiver to allow passengers to rebook flights without penalty. AMR Corp.’s American Airlines is the second-largest, according to U.S. Transportation Department data.
While LaGuardia was only the 16th-busiest U.S. airport by departures in the 12 months through March, according to U.S. Transportation Department statistics, it’s part of the busiest U.S. airspace because of the proximity of John F. Kennedy International Airport, at No. 18, and No. 19 Newark Liberty International Airport.
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