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What Caused the Southwest Airlines Accident?

By Aaron Bailey in News on Dec 14, 2005 5:39PM

southwestplane.jpgThe inevitable finger pointing has begun as investigators try to determine what exactly caused Southwest Flight 1248 to skid off a runway at Midway and strike a car, killing 6-year-old Joshua Woods.

Yesterday, family and friends attended Woods' visitation at Steger Memorial Chapel. As the Sun-Times reports, the family's attorney and spokesman, Ronald Stearney Sr., was at the chapel talking to the media, probably in preparation of a lawsuit against Southwest and Midway.

In the investigation, the pilot told federal officials he used the plane's "autobrakes" which allows automatic breaking upon landing. Southwest's policy is to not use that feature of the Boeing 737 because the gear requires a cooling period before the plane can take off again. For the low-cost carrier, this prevents flights from being quickly turned around and put back in the air.

Investigators are still trying to determine if the autobreaks were operable or whether the pilot had the proper training to use the system.

The Tribune reports that the conditions of landing at Midway are difficult, even in perfect conditions. The first 696 feet of the runway is useless because of "light poles, utility lines and other obstacles" and the 6,522-foot runway is shorter than most major airports.

Last Thursday's conditions, of course, were far from perfect. Air-traffic control warned the aircraft that the runway conditions were bad. Data from the flight recorder shows the plane touched down harder than normal, "reflecting an apparent attempt by the captain to hit the intended runway-landing markings dead-on so the maximum amount of remaining runway was available to stop the plane."

As investigators warned earlier, this likely won't be resolved soon, leaving little consolation for a grieving family.

Photo via Yahoo/AFP/Getty Images