NTSB Hearing into Midway Accident Concludes

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued a new plan for airplanes landing at Midway Airport during poor weather conditions.

Pilots will now be required to add 15 percent to the length of runway they think they need to land safely. If there is a heavy snowfall and poor braking conditions, the city will have to keep most of the 6,500-foot runway clear. The changes could mean flight delays, NBC5's Amy Jacobson reported.

"We think we've done a good job of whittling down a complicated set of issues," said Don Stimson of the FAA.

Last December, a Southwest Airlines jet crashed through a wall on landing, going out into the street and killing a 6-year-old Indiana boy.

The safety margin is used in Europe, and is scheduled to be implemented next October.

According to the flight's on-board performance computer, if the new plan had been in place, they would have had a negative stopping margin, and they would not have been allowed to land at Midway that night, especially with an 8-knot tailwind in poor braking conditions.

"It could have been something as simple as landing with a headwind instead of a tailwind, and everything would have been fine," said Southwest Airlines' technical operator.

"Certainly a number of diversions would probably occur that would not otherwise," said Steven Wallace of the FAA. "There is no question that there will be circumstances when this notice goes into effect where aircraft could land under today's regulatory scheme would not be able to land."

There were still many unanswered questions as National Transportation Safety Board hearings came to an end about last December's accident, Jacobson reported. One of those questions is why it took 18 seconds for the pilots to activate the thrust reversers to slow down the aircraft. The answer was not found in the transcripts.

"That's what we're going to have to try and find out," said Mark Rosenker of the NTSB. "It may be that we'll have to go back to that crew and get a little more information from them."

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