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NTSB Launches Probe After Southwest Jet’s Hard Landing

Plane's Front Landing Gear Collapsed On Runway

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a full investigation into the hard landing Monday afternoon at LaGuardia Airport.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, Southwest Airlines Flight 345 arriving from Nashville, Tenn., skidded in flames down the runway as its nose landing gear collapsed after landing.

“When we got ready to land, we nosedived,” said a passenger, Sgt. 1st Class Anniebell Hanna of the South Carolina National Guard.

The NTSB investigation is focused on the crucial final seconds the flight.

“There have been conflicting reports, but it appears they did not have any indication of a gear problem prior to the moment of touchdown, and it collapsed the moment of touchdown,” said aviation expert Brian Alexander.

Passengers said the plane came down suddenly and violently.

“It was 20 times worse than any roller coaster stop would be,” said passenger Nadine Koo. “It was like a big whoosh.”

The hard landing was also a shock to air traffic controllers.

Investigators said a gear collapse on landing is rare, but could be triggered by a few different scenarios.

“You could have a mechanical problem with the landing gear — that has to be inspected,” said former NTSB investigator Ira Furman. “You could have a situation where the aircraft landed and the crew lowered the nose too quickly.”

The 737 wound up on a grassy area next to the runway, where passengers used chutes to escape.

“The worst part was when the doors weren’t being opened and the smoke was coming in,” said passenger Andy Sperry. “You just don’t know. You just couldn’t breathe.”

The rough landing at LaGuardia came just weeks after an Asiana Airlines jet made a fiery crash landing in San Francisco, killing three people.

“These things tend to come in cycles,” Alexander said. “Aviation is safe, but it’s a human system so that always factors in and there can be complex equipment, so there can be troubles with that.”

Ten passengers were treated at the scene, and six were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, said Thomas Bosco, acting director of aviation for the Port Authority. The six crew members were taken to another hospital for observation.

Bosco said there was no advance warning of any possible problem before the landing.

“I’m not aware of any call from the pilot about a problem with the landing gear,” he said.

He said the collapse around 5:40 p.m. closed the airport for more than an hour. Dallas-based Southwest said 150 people were on the flight, while the Port Authority said the total was 149.