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Wind May Have Played Role in Denver Plane Crash

Jan 2, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Federal transportation officials are trying to determine if high wind gusts played a role in pushing a Continental airlines flight off a runway at Denver International Airport last month, injuring 37 people. According to the Associated Press, wind gusts at the time of the accident measured as high as 37 mph.

The Denver plane crash occurred at around 6:18 p.m. on December 28, when Continental flight 1404 to Houston was attempting to take off from Denver International Airport. According to USA Today, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the aircraft had traveled about one third of the length of the runway when it veered to the left and skidded into a ravine.  

The aircraft broke apart upon impact and burst into flames. The plane’s left engine was ripped away along with all the landing gear, the Associated Press said. According to airport officials, the runway was free of snow and dry at the time of the crash.

According to the NTSB lead investigator,  the plane’s data recorder revealed that the thrust-reversers - which are deployed to stop an aircraft on a runway - on both of the plane’s engines were activated.   One of the pilots also can be heard on the recorder calling for an aborted takeoff, the investigator said.

According to the Associated Press, winds around the time of the crash were at about 27 mph, with gusts to nearly 37 mph.  However, the report said such cross wind speeds would not have prevented the plane from taking off, and they should not have affected the pilots' ability to control the aircraft.

In addition to crosswinds, the NTSB is looking into several other factors that could have played a role in the crash, including rudder, break and engine problems.

The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that wreckage from the crash is expected to be removed from the runway today, and will be stored in a secure location at the Denver airport.

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