Nightly News   |  August 06, 2013

Did pilot error play role in LaGuardia crash landing?

Federal investigators say the plane’s first officer had been flying the plane but in the final seconds of the flight, the captain suddenly took control, and then the Southwest plane slammed onto the runway. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a follow-up tonight on the crash landing of a southwest airlines jet at new york's laguardia airport two weeks ago. and a puzzling reaction to the plane slamming nose wheel first.

>> reporter: the ntsb is telling us the first officer was flying the plane. that is very common. but for some reason while below 400 feet on final approach , the captain suddenly grabbed control of the aircraft. and seconds later, the crash landing . to the passengers inside flight 345, the approach into laguardia seemed to be normal. but then suddenly. panic on board as the nose of the 737 slammed on to the runway.

>> you need to take your seat, please take your seat.

>> now, federal investigators say the plane's first officer had been flying the plane, in the final seconds of flight, while below 400 feet altitude, the captain suddenly assumed control of the plane. seconds later, the crash landing . to veteran pilot, the question is, why the captain wouldn't simply go around if he or she thought there was a problem.

>> if there is an issue that arises between 500 feet and the ground and there's any question about the safe continuation of the landing, a go around is required.

>> the first officer was experienced with 5200 flight hours, 1100 in the 737, this was his first trip in command. the captain had accumulated 12,000 hours of nighttime, 7900 in the 737. but this was their first flight together. the question tonight, why did the captain take control of the plane so late in the landing process, and was the handoff according to procedure?

>> to try to take command, get established, get the tactile feel for the airplane and successfully touch the airplane down on the runway is very challenging.

>> the accident came just two weeks after asiana airplane crash landed in san francisco . the discussions between pilots in the first and last minutes of flight are critical. investigators are looking at exactly what happened and what was said in the cockpit. lester?