News10NBC Investigates: Plane part found on Rochester runway after Southwest landing Sunday

What happened when a part fell off a plane during landing Sunday

What happened when a part fell off a plane during landing Sunday

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Part of a Southwest airplane fell off when it landed in Rochester last Sunday.

The part was small, but we learned it was connected to the system that slows the airplane down when it hits the runway.

When a Southwest plane landed Sunday at approximately 4 p.m., part of the plane’s reverse thruster fell off on the runway. The airport administration says a supervisor found it on a routine runway inspection.

“Thanks to his due diligence and effort, the Airfield Supervisor was able to track down the aircraft that the component came from, and return it to the airline and an airline mechanic,” said Steve Barz, assistant airport director.

Berkeley Brean: “What does a reverse thruster do?”
John Cox, former pilot, NBC News aviation safety expert: “It adds a huge amount of drag and helps the airplane slow down to a taxi speed.”

John Cox was a pilot for 30 years. He’s a consultant on aviation safety, and he’s an NBC News analyst.

In January, a door blew off an Air Alaska flight. Last week, a tire fell off a United plane. I covered the sudden u-turn of a small plane in Buffalo after its hatch fell off.

Cox says cell phones are capturing incidents that might have gone unrecorded in the past.

“There’s a lot of focus right now and understandably so,” he said. “But I don’t see that there is a negative trend in the safety of aviation and I don’t worry about it when I get on the airplanes pretty much every week.”

Southwest gave me a statement for this story, and part of it reads: “The plane was pulled out of service for inspection and ultimately repaired within a couple hours.”

But because of that repair they had to change crews and the flight was delayed slightly.

“We apologize for the inconvenience to those Customers and thank them for their patience as Safety is Southwest’s uncompromising top priority,” the statement read. “All Southwest aircraft undergo a cadence maintenance and inspection through our maintenance programs.”

The FAA also gave me a statement, and in that statement they write, “The airline informed the FAA about this event. We looked into it and determined the airline followed proper procedures for returning the aircraft to service.”

The FAA told me the part falling off had “no immediate impact to the safety of flight.”

“I fly pretty much every week. My wife is on an airplane right now as we speak,” Cox said. “I have no question that aviation remains the safest form of transportation available to us.”