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Tue, Jan 29, 2008

Law Firm Takes Southwest To Task For GEG Taxiway Excursion

"Anyone Catch The License Plate On That Ambulance?"

Barely 24 hours after a Southwest Airlines 737 apparently slid off a snow-covered taxiway at Washington's Spokane International Airport, one law firm felt compelled to call attention to what it no doubt hopes potential clients will see as an endemic problem.

As ANN reported Monday, Flight 485 departed a taxiway shortly after landing at GEG Sunday afternoon, apparently due to the snow-slicked pavement caused by nearly two days of constant snowfall. Early reports indicated the plane might have slid off the runway, as it was turning onto the taxiway.

It's worth noting none of the passengers or crew onboard the airliner were injured in the slow-speed incident; and as of Monday evening, the FAA hadn't seen fit to issue a Preliminary Report. One law firm, however, couldn't wait until the facts of the Spokane incident could be analyzed by expert investigators.

"Southwest flight crews have a history of undertaking similarly risky aircraft operations," said a breathless release issued Monday by Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, a law firm with a history of going after the Dallas-based low-cost carrier.

"This is at least the fourth instance where a Southwest jet has overrun a runway or ran off a taxiway in just the past few years," said Kreindler partner Dan Rose, who has and is currently handling cases stemming from two other Southwest runway overruns. "It continues to raise serious safety concerns about Southwest's operations and culture."

According to the law firm, Southwest's "operations and culture" may also point to responsibility for three other runway and/or taxiway excursions, one of them fatal -- the December 8, 2005 overrun at Chicago's Midway Airport, when Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 was landing in a snowstorm and skidded off the runway. The skidding plane exited the airport grounds and impacted a car, killing six-year-old Joshua Woods.

To date, the Midway incident is the carrier's only fatality in its nearly 37-year history.

As ANN reported, the National Transportation Safety Board determined in October 2007 the probable cause of the overrun was the pilot's failure to use available reverse thrust in a timely manner to safely slow or stop the airplane after landing... and recommended all airlines review new procedures for bringing aircraft to a safe stop on slick runways. 

"Similar weather conditions to the ones in Spokane prevailed at time of [the Midway] incident," according to the law firm... despite the fact shortly after the incident Sunday, GEG spokesman Todd Woodard pointedly noted "we don't have any ice on the runway; we were pretty vigilant about that."

The law firm also notes two other incidents in which Southwest jets left the runway on landing -- one in Amarillo, TX in May 2003, and the infamous runway overrun in Burbank, CA in March 2000 (shown below.)

"When are they going to learn?" asks Jim Chalupsky, who the law firm states is a "survivor" of the Chicago Midway accident (one of 103) and current Kreindler & Kreindler LLP client.

One could ask the same question of this apparent rush to judgment... at least until an official investigation weighs in on the cause of the incident at Spokane International.

FMI: www.kreindler.com, www.southwest.com, www.ntsb.gov

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