Windshear Cited in Southwest Close Call at LaGuardia Airport

A Southwest Airlines 737 on apprach to land.
Tomás Del Coro, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a close call between a Southwest Airlines flight and the air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport. The incident occurred at the New York airport on March 23rd, 2024.

The incident involved Southwest Flight WN147, a Boeing 737-800 registered N8554X, which reportedly veered off runway heading while landing.

According to CBS News, the aircraft may have flown close to the LaGuardia air traffic control tower during its go around procedure.

Windshear Cited in Southwest Close Call at LaGuardia Airport

CBS News reporting suggests a clearance of as little as 67 feet, though this has not been formally confirmed by authorities.

Investigators believe strong winds and an aborted initial landing attempt due to exceeding safe airspeed and altitude might be contributing factors.

Air traffic control audio recordings reveal the urgency of the situation. Air traffic controllers instructed the pilots to execute a go-around maneuver during a second landing attempt.

The FAA is currently looking into the aircraft’s flightpath and the clearance provided by the control tower.

Windshear Cited in Southwest Close Call at LaGuardia Airport

Wind Shear Conditions Reported

While the exact cause of the incident is still under investigation, strong winds and wind shear are suspected to have played a significant role.

LaGuardia Airport is situated on an island in the East River, which can sometimes channel wind, creating challenging conditions for incoming flights.

Southwest flight WN147 had made two landing attempts on the day of the incident. The incident in question occurred around 13:00 local time on 23 March.

A first approach attempt culminated in a go around due to the wind conditions. Other flights had similarly experienced difficulties and reported wind shear conditions.

On its second landing attempt, Southwest flight WN147 was instructed to go around following more windshear at LaGuardia Airport.

The instruction directed flight crew to fly runway heading and climb to 2,000 feet.

ATC communications suggest the aircraft had drifted off the extended runway centreline during the approach.

It was during this second missed approach procedure that the aircraft reportedly passed close to the tower.

The flight subsequently diverted to Baltimore (BWI) after the second aborted approach attempt.

Dhaluza, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What is Wind Shear?

Wind shear is a significant concern for aircraft, particularly during takeoff and landing. It describes a situation where wind speed or direction changes abruptly over a short distance.

There are two main types of wind shear:

  • Vertical wind shear: This occurs when wind speed or direction changes rapidly with altitude. For example, encountering a strong headwind at low altitude while transitioning from a tailwind at higher altitude can significantly reduce lift.
  • Horizontal wind shear: This happens when wind speed or direction changes abruptly across a short horizontal distance. Imagine encountering a strong crosswind just as the aircraft touches down, making it difficult to maintain control during landing.

FAA Investigation

The FAA’s investigation is likely to focus on several key areas, including the flight path of Southwest Flight 147 and the windshear, the communication between the pilots and air traffic control at LaGuardia airport, and the adherence to established landing procedures.

Understanding these factors will be crucial in determining the exact cause of the incident and preventing similar occurrences in the future.

The investigation may also examine the training protocols for pilots in handling strong winds during landing and the decision-making process involved in executing a go-around maneuver.

Click the banner to subscribe to our weekly Emergencies and Incidents newsletter.

Click the photo to join our WhatsApp channel so then you can stay up to date with everything going on in the aviation industry!

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
You Might Also Enjoy