Southwest Jet Hit Runway Nose First, Investigators Say

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Southwest Airlines plane after its landing gear failed at LaGuardia Airport. (WPIX)

NEW YORK — The Southwest Airlines jet that skidded down a LaGuardia airport runway on its nose on Monday touched down on its front wheels first, which then collapsed, according to federal accident investigators.

The unusual landing, in which investigators said the plane’s nose pitched down seconds before touchdown, is the surest clue yet to explain the accident involving the Boeing 737 that injured several people.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday that video and other sources provide evidence that the nose gear contacted the tarmac before the main wheels.

Under a normal landing in a big jet, the main landing gear under each wing would touch the runway first and simultaneously — absorbing the main stress of landing — and the nose gear then lowered gradually as the plane decelerates down the runway.

Landing the way it did “would potentially have overstressed the nose gear to the point where it would have failed,” said Capt. Mark Weiss, a former 737 pilot and civil aviation leader at The Spectrum Group in Washington.

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