CHICAGO -- The reverse thrusters that should have slowed a
How much of a role that equipment played in Thursday's deadly accident wasn't immediately clear, however, and the investigation is continuing.
The plane's flight attendants told investigators that the
''They all said it was a smooth landing, but they could sense a lack of deceleration," Benzon said.
He said the pilots told investigators they began applying the brakes manually as soon as they noticed that the plane wasn't slowing properly.
The plane, with 98 passengers aboard, slid through a fence and into street traffic, where it killed a 6-year-old boy in a car.
Because of the blowing snow, none of the air traffic controllers actually saw the plane land, but more than 10 cameras have been identified that could provide additional information, including details about the runway conditions, Benzon said.
Yesterday workers used a crane with a sling to lift the damaged airliner off the city street and into a hangar for further inspections.
Southwest said that the captain piloting Thursday's flight has been with the airline for more than 10 years and that the first officer has flown with Southwest for 2 1/2 years. It was the first fatal crash in the airline's 35-year history.
The plane had been landing in a snowstorm when it slid off the end of the 6,500-foot runway, plowed through a fence, and struck two cars.
Ten people, most of them on the ground, were injured and the boy was killed in a car driven by his father.
The plane's voice and data recorders were sent to Washington, D.C., for analysis, NTSB member Ellen Engleman Conners said.
Though the airport had about 7 inches of snow at the time, aviation officials said conditions were acceptable. Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said Friday that the plane had recently had a maintenance check and showed no signs of problems.
Midway, built in 1923 and surrounded by houses and businesses, is among nearly 300 US commercial airports without 1,000-foot buffer zones at the ends of runways.
Safety specialists suggest that airports guard against accidents by using beds of crushable concrete that can slow an aircraft if it slides off the runway's end.
The crushable concrete beds, called Engineered Material Arresting Systems, are already in place on 18 runways at 14 airports. They have stopped dangerous overruns three times since May 1999 at Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Wendy Abrams, a Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman, could not immediately say whether an arresting system had been considered at Midway.
Some pilots say relatively short runways like Midway's pose a challenge in icy or snowy weather, forcing them to touch down as close as possible to the beginning of the runway to allow more braking time.
''It's not a place you can be a little off," said Richard Ward, a retired United Airlines pilot who occasionally flew into Midway. ''You don't have the variable of a long runway to correct any errors."
''We think it's incumbent on airports that don't have the room for these safety areas to at least put in one of these systems," said Jim Hall, NTSB chairman from 1993 to 2001.
Hall said the lack of a 1,000-foot overrun area and the absence of the crushable concrete beds would probably be a focus of the investigation.
''It's a tragedy that did not have to occur," he said.