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A Southwest Airlines plane attempting to land during strong winds in Connecticut this week scraped the runway and had to be pulled out of service, but not before trying to land two more times and eventually diverting to Rhode Island.
The airline and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident on Flight 2169 from Orlando to Hartford, Connecticut, on Monday, Feb. 25.
Southwest said the Boeing 737-700, with 146 passengers and five crew members, landed in Providence with no reported injuries to passengers.
That doesn’t mean it was a smooth flight. One passenger told the Hartford Courant the turbulence was so bad many people got sick during the attempted landings.
“With each fail they would go back up, circle and then descend again to try and land,” a Connecticut mother of three kids, ages 3-10, told the newspaper. “So, with each descent that we experienced, there was horrible turbulence that was making a good portion of the people on the plane vomit.”
Southwest said it has apologized to passengers on the plane, refunded their tickets, offered vouchers for future flights and made more “gestures of goodwill.”
In a statement, the airline said an inspection conducted after the flight “noted some damage to the aircraft.” It said the plane will be out of service while repairs are completed and an internal review is conducted.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said it investigates every aircraft incident as part of its airline safety oversight. In this case, he said FAA officials will look at the plane and review the flight, including the crew, plane and weather, and will work with Southwest on any necessary follow-up..
The Aviation Herald, which chronicles airplane incidents, reported the details of Southwest’s multiple attempts or approaches to land in Hartford Monday. In the comments section, one post questioned why Southwest was attempting to land in such strong winds.
Bill Waldock, a professor of safety science and accident investigator at Embry-Riddle University in Prescott, Arizona, said the reported winds in Hartford on Monday were within the acceptable range for the Boeing 737, though near the limit.
He said it’s not common for a plane’s wing tip to scrape the runway but it’s not surprising given the strength of the winds and the fact that the Boeing 737 is a low-wing airplane.
“You start rocking and rolling out there,” he said.
He said minor contact with a wing tip is relatively benign, while more serious contact with the wing “might cartwheel the airplane.”
“I’m sure it was a rough ride for the passengers,” he said. “In terms of risks, it’s in the level.”
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