Runway Overrun May Have Prevented Flight 331 Accident





Runway Overrun May Have Prevented Flight 331 Accident

By Mike Mitchell

January 1, 2010, - An American Airlines Flight 331 departed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Tuesday, December 22, 2009, with a stop at Miami International Airport. Flight 331 then departed Miami for Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport. Flight 331 touched down at Kingston Jamaica approximately 10:00 pm local time, the aircraft overshot the end of the runway while landing in heavy rain, crossed a road and stopped on a beach. Multiple injuries had been reported. Kingston Airport does not have a have an added buffer at the end of runways to prevent these kinds of accidents from happening.  

In the United States most airports have what is called an “Runway Overrun” or safety area which servers as an additional buffer of land for aircraft that overshoot the end of the runway. However, there are numerous airports in the U.S. that do not have this added buffer at the end of their runways. Logan Airport will build a deck into Boston Harbor that will allow them to add an additional 600 feet to runway 33 L which was the site of a runway overrun accident in 1982 that resulted in two deaths. 

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team of investigators to assist the government of Jamaica in its investigation of an accident involving an American Airlines B737-800 (N977AN). John Lovell was designated senior air safety investigator for the NTSB. A U.S. team was dispatched to assist the government of Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority. The team included five NTSB aviation specialists as well as technical advisors from the Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines, Boeing Aircraft Company, and GE Aircraft Engines.  

Two U.S. attorneys have made it know that they are working with passengers of Flight 331 to assist in legal actions. It appears their claims will be based on a claim that the Boeing's 737-800 aircrafts have had repeated problems with their thrust reversers, spoilers and brakes and that the 737-800 has been involved in several accidents since 2006. 

The 737-800 is a stretched version of the 737-700, and replaces the 737-400. It also filled the gap left by Boeing's discontinuation of the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 after Boeing's merger with McDonnell Douglas. The -800 was launched by Hapag-Lloyd Flug (now TUIfly) in 1994 and entered service in 1998. The 737-800 seats 162 passengers in a two class layout, or 189 in one class, and competes with the A320. For many airlines in the U.S., the 737-800 replaced aging Boeing 727-200 trijets. 


The 737-800 is also among the models replacing the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 series aircraft in airline service; it burns 850 gallons of jet fuel per hour, or about 80% of the fuel needed by an MD-80 on a comparable flight, even while carrying more passengers than the latter. According to the Airline Monitor, an industry publication, a 737-800 burns 4.88 gallons of fuel per seat per hour. Alaska Airlines replaced the MD-80 with the 737-800, saving $2,000 per flight, assuming jet fuel prices of $4 per gallon. The fuel cost of each such flight (2008 prices) on a 737-800 is about $8,500.00.  

For example, on 14 August 2008, American Airlines announced 26 orders for the 737-800 (20 are exercised options from previously signed contracts and six are new incremental orders) as well as accelerated deliveries. A total of 1605 -800, and 12 -800 BBJ aircraft have been delivered with over 1,400 unfilled orders as of April 2009. Ryanair, a low-cost airline is one of the largest carriers of the Boeing 737-800, operating 200 over 36 bases on over 850 routes across Europe and North Africa.

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