DUNEDIN, Fla. -- What's it like in the cockpit of a 737 jet when anemergency like the Southwest Airlines gear failure happens? We took aride in a flight simulator to get a closer look.
At Sim CenterTampa Bay in Dunedin, they've replicated a 737 jet -- the same type asthe plane that skidded down the runway at LaGuardia when its landinggear collapsed -- down to every dial and gauge.
Peter Repakadjusted levers and scanned his eyes across an array of screens in ahyper-realistic cockpit as we cruised over New York City.
Then onour simulated approach to New York's LaGuardia Airport, Repak reachedforward and moved the lever that lowered the landing gear, just as thecrew of Southwest flight 345 did Sunday.
"And now all three aregreen, so all three landing gears are down," Repak said, gesturing tothree rectangular lights. Each glowed green -- "LEFT GEAR," "RIGHTGEAR," and "NOSE GEAR."
"If you're a pilot, you have to rely on what it says?" I asked.
"Thatmeans the landing gears are down and locked, so that they are locked inplace, the hydraulics worked correctly," said Repak, who owns thecenter in Dunedin where anyone can come fly a 737 or either a F-16 orF-35 fighter jet.
"And everything to me, as far as a pilot indicates, three green -- that means I'm ready for a landing."
Ifthe green lights never come on, there are several procedures to try andfix the problem. But if the indicators light up, that's what pilotsrely on.
We don't know everything about either of the incidents,but comparing the Asiana crash in San Francisco with the Southwest gearfailure at LaGuardia shows a significant difference, Repak said.
"Huge-- in every possible way that you could think of. Because that wasprobably an unforseen accident that's what happened with the Southwestcrash. You could not know if the landing gear is going to collapse,"Repak said.
"But the Asiana -- it was beautiful weather, therewas no inclement weather, there was no visibility problem, there was nowind problem -- there was nothing."
Our landing passed the momentwhen flight 345's landing gear buckled beneath it, skidding to a stopon its belly in a shower of sparks.
As we touched down smoothly, Repak remained faithful in American planes and the people who fly them.
"Theseairplanes are made incredibly robust. They're made for a lot more thanwhat actually happens to them. So, today, it's the safest thing to do,as far as flying."