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NAS Jacksonville landing mishap: What we know & don't know

A Boeing 737 slid off the runway into the St. Johns River on Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No one was seriously hurt Friday night when a jet carrying 143 people slid off the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and into the St. Johns River, authorities said. It’s unclear what caused the plane to skid off the runway, although severe weather was rolling through the area at the time.

UNCUT: Briefing from Tom Francis with JFRD NAS Jacksonville officials brief media  |
NTSB investigation update

What we know

  • There were 136 passengers and 7 crew members on board, according to preliminary details released by Navy officials. According to public information officers at all hospitals, at least two dozen people, including a three-month-old baby, were taken to area hospitals, but no one was critically injured, according to officials.
  • Officials at NAS Jax said there were four pets on board the plane and at least three likely died because none of the pet crates were above water inside the cargo hold and rescuers heard no pet sounds when they checked on the pets twice. Sources tell News4Jax that it's possible a fourth in the cabin survived.   
  • The flight was traveling to Naval Air Station Jacksonville from Guantanamo Bay, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. The website shows the plane left Cuba after 7 p.m. and arrived in Jacksonville about 9:40 p.m. 
  • The plane involved is a Boeing 737-800 owned by Wells Fargo and operated by Miami Air International, a charter airline company based in Miami, Florida. According to the company’s website, the airline provides charter flights to professional sports teams and the government, among other clientele.
  • A heavy thunderstorm was sweeping through the area immediately surrounding the Navy base about 8:50 p.m., according to News4Jax Chief Meteorologist John Gaughan. He said lightning was reported nearby and an inch of rain had fallen by the time the plane landed.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Bruce Landsberg said the agency is investigating three aspects: human, machine and environment as possible causes of plane mishap.
  • The panel of 16 arrived in Jacksonville Saturday. The team, which has expertise in aircraft operations, structures, power plants, human performance, weather, airports and other areas has begun its investigation.
  • The NTSB has recovered the flight data recorder from the plane and its on its way to the NTSB lab in Washington D.C.
  • New photos show the plane skidded, departed runway, impacted low sea wall, made of stones and rocks before going into river in an area where the water is 4-6 feet deep. 
  • Cockpit voice recorder has not been recovered because it is located in the tail of the plane, which remains under water. It will be recovered when plane is moved.
  • NAS Jax Airport runways will remain closed until NTSB clears scene.
  • Crew of plane will be interviewed by NTSB officials on  Sunday.
  • NTSB investigator Dan Boggs holds the flight data recorder recovered from the Miami Air International Boeing 737-800 that overran the runway at NAS Jacksonville and came to rest in the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday. pic.twitter.com/y5vMCQ7ZFi
  • According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are two runways at NAS Jacksonville: Runway 10/28, which is 9,003 ft long, and Runway 14/32, which is 5,979 feet long. Both runways are asphalt or bituminous concrete and considered in fair condition by FAA (other options are Excellent, Good, Poor, and Failed). The markings at the ends of the runway are listed as fair (as opposed to good or poor). There are runway end identifier lights.
  • A search of an NTSB database revealed three past incidents involving Miami Air. The most recent, in 2005, involved a Boeing 737-800, the same type of plane as Friday’s incident. At that time, the plane bounced as it touched down in State College, PA, and the resulting landing damaged the plane. None of the 127 people on board were hurt. The other incidents, in 1999 and 1992, involved Boeing 727 planes, with two people suffering minor injuries in the 1999 incident.

PREVIOUS MIAMI AIR FLIGHT INCIDENTS: Nov. 2005 | Jan. 1999 | Dec. 1992

  • The White House called Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to offer any assistance it could provide after learning of the crash landing, according to a tweet Curry posted shortly before 11:30 p.m. “White House called to help as the situation was developing,” the mayor tweeted.

What we don't know

  • The cause of the incident wasn’t immediately clear as of Saturday afternoon with the National Transportation Safety Board held its first media briefing. The plane was coming in for a landing at NAS Jax when it apparently slid into the St. Johns River. 
  • It's unknown how much ground the plane covered between touching down on the runway and skidding into the St. Johns River. Capt. Mike Connor, who's in charge of the base, said he did not know how far the plane traveled before going into the water.
  • While the plane appeared to be mostly intact, it remains to be seen how long it will take for crews to get the aircraft out of the river. Officials said they don't have a timetable for the plane's removal and several options for removal are being considered.
  • It also wasn't immediately known how much jet fuel spilled into the St. Johns as a result of the mishap. Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted that there were crews working to contain "jet fuel in the water," but he did not elaborate. Few other details have been released.

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Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.