As everyone has heard by now, the nose gear on a Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville to New York’s LaGuardia Airport collapsed on landing Monday, causing several injuries as well as flight delays and cancellations. The gear reportedly collapsed rearward and upward, puncturing the body of the 737 and damaging the electronics bay that houses the avionics. The plane skidded almost 2200 feet before coming to rest near the edge of the tarmac. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stated that ten people were treated at the scene, and six were hospitalized.
News reports indicate that the plane, which has been in service since late 1999, was just inspected four days before the incident, on July 18. Whether and to what extent the inspection included the landing gear has not been discussed. At this point it is unknown whether that inspection should have detected a possible problem.
A number of factors could lead to such a gear collapse, including for example prior hard landings, corrosion, metal fatigue or some combination of these and other factors. The plane has since been towed to a hanger, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident. Eventually the NTSB will determine the cause of this accident.