PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Heavy rain triggered a false alarm in airport ground equipment monitoring the landing of an Eastern Airlines DC-9, but a federal official Thursday discounted the alarm as a factor in the jet's hard landing that cracked the plane's fuselage.
'In no way did it have an impact on the accident,' said Inez Almond of the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington.
Eastern Airlines Flight 573 from Atlanta cracked nearly in two when it made a hard landing at Pensacola Regional Airport Sunday night. Sparks were visible from the tower as the tail section was dragged 7,000 feet down the runway.
Three of the 96 passengers were injured in an emergency evacuation of the plane.
On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board suggested a problem might have existed with the instrument landing system, or ILS, when flight 573 landed. NTSB spokeswoman Drucella Anderson said the crew was told the ILS glide slope was in alarm, meaning it may not have been giving correct information. The glide slope indicates the angle of approach to the runway. But the aircraft crew said it was receiving properly.
Federal investigators checked the equipment and at first thought there might have been a short circuit that triggered the alarm. But Almond said the agency found the weather was to blame.
'The ILS equipment did check out properly. There was no short circuit,' said Almond. 'What happened is that our status indicator that goes to the tower somehow received a transmission due to heavy rain. And so what happened is the transmission went to the tower saying 'alarm alarm alarm.' And there was in fact no alarm.'
She equated it to a storm affecting a television. In the case of the ILS monitor, however, it tripped an alarm.
The DC-9 split nearly in half when it made the hard landing at 11:38 p.m. CST Sunday.