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Investigation into how Southwest plane landed

The Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet whose nose gear collapsed after landing at LaGuardia Airport Monday afternoon was removed from the runway early Tuesday as the investigation into the incident moves forward.
July 23, 2013 3:25:30 PM PDT
The National Transportation Safety Board is trying to figure out why the landing gear collapsed in what appeared to be a normal landing.

In most cases of landing gear problems, the pilots usually get some indication that there's a problem.

That was not the case when Flight 345 touched down at LaGuardia.

The video seconds after touch down and another taken by a passenger on board show the exact moment the landing gear violently broke.

"We didn't come down in an angle, we dropped," the passenger said.

The video is now evidence likely to be examined closely by crash investigators to determine if a hard landing contributed to the collapse.

"If that did in fact happen, there is the potential, yes that it did in fact collapse the landing gear. The weather not too bad, no obvious reason that they would have landed first on the nose gear," said Col. Steve Ganyard, a former pilot (ret.).

The pilots received no warning in the cockpit of any landing gear problems. The plane's data and voice recorders are now at the NTSB labs in Washington which will provide clues as to what caused the nose gear to break. A hard landing is just one possibility.

"Was it a maintenance failure, something wrong in the manufacturing process, or defect in the metal," Col. Ganyard said.

Most pilots Eyewitness News spoke to lean toward maintenance or structural defect as the cause.

"The guys who fly for Southwest, they do a lot of landings and take off and they get really good at it and I'd have a hard time believing that there was any pilot error in this accident," said Capt. Tom Bunn, (ret.) airline pilot.

While this is the third landing gear incident in less than a year at New York airports, this latest one ended as most all do, with no fatalities.

"It's an event, but from a pilot's point of view, it's not life threatening," Capt. Bunn said.

The NTSB described the collapse landing of the gear as "violent", so violent that it caused a substantial amount of damage to the aircraft.

Eyewitnes News also learned that it took just 69 seconds for the Port Authority's crash rescue units to get to the scene and begin spraying foam on the plane.

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