Latest on Southwest plane investigation and why it could have been MUCH worse

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QUEENS, New York (PIX11) –  While the crash landing of a Southwest Airlines 737 Monday evening caused hundreds of flight delays at LaGuardia Airport that continued well into Tuesday, PIX 11 wanted to know what the margin was between ‘close call’ and potential disaster on Runway 4 at 5:40 pm Monday.

Aviation attorney, Brian Alexander–who also has a commercial pilot’s license–told PIX that margin can be “razor thin.”

“Even hitting the ground, as opposed to the runway, could cause fuselage to act differently and break up,” Alexander said.  And Alexander noted there’s always a potential for disaster “anytime you have sparks and fuel in close proximity.”

Luckily for Southwest Airlines Flight 345 from Nashville–which had 150 passengers and crew on board–there were no deaths, just some minor injuries, when the plane came to a halt and evacuated.

One passenger rushing out of the terminal had told reporters, “The worst part was when the doors weren’t being opened and the smoke was coming in.”

Brian Alexander used a model plane to show PIX how a jet is supposed to land.

“The two sets of main gear (in the middle of the craft) will touch down first, followed momentarily by the nose gear,” Alexander explained.

Alexander said when the nose gear collapses, “You’ve now lost your steering and the plane in this case did eventually slide off.”

Southwest Crash Investigation

(Twitter/@NTSB)

Alexander added that if the wing tip had hit the ground, the Southwest Airlines plane could have toppled over. He said if the terrain is uneven–or there’s a gulley on the side–that could also cause the plane to turn over.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent one investigator to New York and has a team of agents working on the case out of Washington, D.C.

Alexander said when landing gear is locked in place, three green lights are supposed to light up in the cockpit to alert pilots.

We’re waiting to hear if those lights went on–or whether a mechanical problem with the gear caused the accident.

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