2 Southwest Airline flights are under FAA scrutiny after wind incidents, and 1 buzzed an air traffic control tower

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2 Southwest Airline flights are under FAA scrutiny after wind incidents, and 1 buzzed an air traffic control tower

A Southwest Airlines sign

A Southwest Airlines sign
Photo: Michael Ciaglo (Getty Images)

Two Southwest Airlines flights are under scrutiny for wind encounters right now: One last month in New York City and the other in Tampa, Florida, yesterday. Planes make their way into the air when their wings, propelled forward by jet engines or some other source of locomotion, encounter air that moves faster on top than underneath. They’re making their own wind, and converting that wind energy into lift. But sometimes their wings also encounter the actual wind, and that causes problems.

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During the first flight, on March 23, a Boeing 737-800 flying from Nashville was approaching the runway to land when things got a bit gusty on the ground. When it began its final descent, the wind blew it off-course. It got down to an altitude of 300 feet, just above the height of the 233-foot air traffic control tower before air traffic controllers told the plane to abandon the attempt.

One controller said that the plane “was not aligned with the runway at all,” according to audio posted online by CBS News. “It was like east of final. He was not gonna land on the runway.” The plane was diverted to Baltimore and eventually landed safely in New York. The Associated Press reports that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether the plane flew directly over the air traffic control tower. Nobody was injured.

The second flight, another Boeing 737-800, was headed to Orlando, Florida from New Orleans when it had to make an emergency landing in Tampa after USA Today reports that it encountered turbulence that shook the plane so badly that a passenger and a flight attendant required medical assistance. The FAA, which is also investigating that incident, described the turbulence as “severe.”

Though Southwest once had a safety problem severe enough to warrant a federal investigation, the website airlineratings.com currently gives a 7/7 safety rating.

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