Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Pence Plane's Skid Is Example of Tight Runway Risks

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Pence Plane's Skid Is Example of Tight Runway Risks

Article excerpt

The out-of-control landing that sent Republican vice president nominee Mike Pence's plane fishtailing off the runway Thursday at New York's LaGuardia Airport is the latest in a series of runway mishaps at one of the U.S.'s tightest and busiest airports. The National Transportation Safety Board sent an 11-person team to investigate the accident. Since 2013, the agency has conducted two previous major accident investigations involving planes sliding off runways at LaGuardia.

The chartered Boeing Co. 737-700 landed hard, slid sideways and came to rest partially in a grassy area during a rain storm at about 7:40 p.m. in New York Thursday, according to Pence and news reports. There were no injuries though the airport was briefly closed and emergency crews were called to the scene.

"When we landed, it was obvious I think to everybody on the plane that the pilots were hitting the brakes very hard, Pence said Friday on MSNBC. "It was about 10 seconds of uncertainty but we were all fine.

The winds were gusty and from the side and rear, which may have added a degree of complexity to the touchdown, said Steve Wallace, a former accident investigation chief at the Federal Aviation Administration.

A government weather station reported 11 minutes after the accident that winds were 11.5 miles an hour, gusting to 17 miles an hour, from the east. Optimally, pilots want to land directly into the wind, which allows a plane to land at a slower speed relative to the ground. While aircraft are allowed to land with moderate winds from the side or the rear, they can make it trickier, Wallace said.

"Those are just combined additional factors, Wallace said. "That's often what causes these type of accidents, a combination of factors.

While investigators haven't released any information about the incident, it highlights the risks at some of the older U.S. airports hemmed in by development or their placement near bodies of water that have prevented them from lengthening runways to modern safety standards.

"There is no question that shorter runways present more challenges to pilots, particularly in New York, said Peter Goelz, former managing director at the NTSB who is now senior vice president at O'Neill & Associates in Washington. …

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