Crash Focus Now on Thrust Reversers

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Pilots of an almost-new Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 that slid off a 6,500-foot runway at Midway Airport in heavy snow last Thursday have told investigators the flying pilot couldnít push up the thrust-reverser lever on landing and needed the help of the first officer to move it. The struggle lasted a few seconds as the plane landed in a snowstorm. "For some reason we haven't pinned down yet, he couldn't get them to go up so he could push them forward," NTSB Investigator Robert Benzon told reporters. "There were seconds of delay." The impact of the alleged malfunction on the braking ability of the plane wonít be known for ďa long time,Ē Benzon said. The accident killed six-year-old Joshua Woods. The boy was riding in a car on a road where the plane came to rest after going through two fences. No one on the plane was seriously hurt. The accident has also renewed focus on the provision of arresting systems for airports that donít have the 1,000-foot runway overruns sought by the FAA.

Midway has neither the overruns, nor the Engineered Material Arresting Systems -- beds of crushable concrete that rapidly slow down planes that run off the runway. Only 18 of the 300 runways in the U.S. that donít have 1,000-foot overruns have the concrete beds. At La Guardia, the energy-absorbing material has stopped three aircraft that have gone off the end of the runway. The flight and voice data recorders are in Washington and should shed light on the reported braking anomaly.