May 5 (UPI) — The pilots of a Boeing 737 plane that slid off the runway of Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida made a “last minute” decision to switch runways, National Transportation Safety Board Officials said Sunday.
Shortly before landing, the pilots on the plane requested a change to runway 10, which was limited to 7,800 feet of its 9,000-foot length due to a wire barrier that was set up to recover Navy aircraft during training, NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said during a news conference Sunday.
“The pilots were advised that because of this barrier, which is located about 1,200 feet from the end of the runway, that displaced the threshold, making the effective length of the runway about 7,800 feet,” Landsberg said.
He added that the NTSB was awaiting the recovery of the plane’s cockpit voice recorder to hear discussions between the crew and air traffic control that may provide insight to their thought process.
“We don’t know what they were thinking or why they made that choice,” Landsberg said. “That will be one of the things we look to find out.”
Landsberg added that the left-hand thrust reverser on the plane was inoperable at the time of the accident and NTSB investigators are thoroughly looking into the issue and what role it played in the incident.
Removal of the plane was delayed due to stormy weather and crews will have to remove 1,200 gallons of fuel before it can be moved.
Landsberg said investigators are unaware how much fuel has leaked into the river, but that Navy contractors have done an “excellent” job of containing it using “several layers of booms.”
All 136 passengers and seven crew members survived the crash without major injuries, but pets in the cargo hold are presumed dead.
Navy divers were working to recover pets from the cargo area on Sunday, Landsberg said.