Airplane Accidents

The Law Offices of Berglund & Johnson represent victims of Commercial and Private Airplane crashes. David Berglund is an experienced pilot who has logged thousands of hours flying his own airplane and is a fully instrumented rated pilot. As such, he has the knowledge and experience necessary to properly represent those, or their family members, who have suffered injury or loss because of defects in an airplane or pilot error that may have caused it to crash. An example of one of the cases handled by Berglund & Johnson involved the crash of Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 in Burbank, CA.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1455

Berglund & Johnson represented the most seriously injured victims in the crash of Southwest Airlines Flight 1455. We discovered in the course of litigation that Southwest had disconnected the automatic braking system from all of their 737s because the President of Southwest wanted to save money for the airlines.
During extensive discovery of Southwest documents, maintenance logs and extensive depositions of witnesses, it was determined that the plane was approaching Burbank Airport too high, too fast and further down the runway than safe. In addition, Tests were done by our experts that proved that even though the plane was coming in too high, too fast, and landed long it could have stopped in time if the auto braking was operative.

Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 (N668SW) was a scheduled passenger flight from McCarran International Airport (KLAS), Las Vegas, Nevada to Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport (BUR), Burbank, California that overran the runway during landing.
On March 5, 2000 at 6:11pm Southwest Flight 1455, a Boeing 737-3T5, overran the end of the runway while landing at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport. It crashed through a metal blast wall and then through the airport perimeter wall and came to rest on Hollywood Way, a four-lane city street, near a Chevron gas station. Of the 142 airplane occupants, 2 received serious injuries, and 42 received minor injuries.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause for the accident was excessive flight speed and too high of a glide path, and the flight crew’s failure to abort the approach when conditions were not met for a stable landing. Additional responsibility was placed on the flight controller’s positioning of the airplane as it approached the airport.

Months later, the pilots were fired as a result of this incident. Southwest Airlines admitted the pilots’ actions were negligent.

At the time, a Southwest spokesperson termed it “the worst accident” in the airline’s history. Air safety experts and pilots suggested the incident was an example of a situation where “fast, steep, unstabilized approaches” are dangerous, and of how inadequate the safety margins around the Burbank runways are (as well as similar U.S. airports).

The gas station missed by the aircraft was later ordered to close due to safety concerns.
Flight Details

Flight 1455 departed McCarran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, Nevada at 1650, more than 2 hours behind schedule due to inclement weather in the area. At 1804:02, when the aircraft was 19 nmi (35 km) north of the BUR outer marker, the SCT controller instructed the aircraft to maintain 230 knots (430 km/h) or greater until further notice. The controller later indicated this was to place the aircraft into the approach pattern between two other flights. The captain acknowledged the instructions.

At 1804:42 the first officer informed the captain that the target airspeed for landing would be 138 knots (256 km/h). This value was based on standard procedures in the Southwest Airlines Flight Operations Manual (FOM). At 1805:13 the captain told the first officer that the air traffic controller had instructed them to remain at 230 knots (430 km/h) or greater “for a while.”

At 1805:54 the controller cleared Flight 1455 to descend to 5,000 feet (1,500 m), and at 1807 cleared the flight to descend to 3,000 feet (900 m). At 1808 the controller cleared flight 1455 for a visual approach to runway 8 with a restriction to remain at or above 3,000 ft (above mean sea level) until passing the Van Nuys very high frequency omnidirectional range (VOR) beacon. This navigational aid is approximately 6 miles (10 km) from the runway. Radar data suggest that the flight began its descent from 3,000 ft (910 m) about 4 mi (6 km) from the runway.

According to the Aeronautical Information Manual, Section 4-4-11, this approach clearance automatically canceled any previous speed assignments. According to the final accident report, traffic conditions no longer warranted the speed assignment after the controller cleared the flight to descend to 3,000 ft (910 m), but the controller did not verbally cancel the speed assignment.

Contributing to the unstable attitude of the aircraft were controller instructions which placed the aircraft in an unfavorable position for final approach. The NTSB concluded that the controller positioned the aircraft too fast, too high, and too close to the runway threshold, although any of these factors could have been compensated for by the pilots.

Southwest Airlines procedures instruct the pilot not flying to make altitude call-outs at 1000, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 30, and 10 feet (3.0 m). Additionally, call-outs are required if certain parameters are not met, in this case flight speed and sink rate. At 1809:32, one minute and thirteen seconds after approach clearance was given, and at 3,000 feet (910 m) of altitude, the captain began to slow the aircraft by deploying the flaps.

At 1810:24 the ground proximity warning system (GPWS) began to sound a “sink rate” warning in the cockpit. The aircraft was descending at an angle of 7 degrees, when the angle of descent for most aircraft landing on that runway was 3 or 4 degrees. Both pilots ignored the warnings. At 1810:44 the warning system in the cockpit began to sound “whoop, whoop, pull up.” The captain responded to these warnings with “that’s all right.”

The captain stated after the accident that he knew as the aircraft passed 500 feet (150 m) that he was not “in the slot,” meaning the conditions had not been met for a safe landing, in this case because of an excessive airspeed. The captain further stated that he understood that if he was not “in the slot,” procedures demanded a go-around maneuver to abort the landing. He could not explain why he did not perform a go-around maneuver. The first officer likewise indicated after the accident that he was aware that they were not “in the slot,” but said he believed the captain was taking corrective action.

The aircraft touched down on the wet runway at about 182 knots, 44 knots (81 km/h) over the target airspeed. Furthermore, it touched down 2,150 feet (660 m) from the runway threshold, 650 feet (200 m) beyond the 1000-1500 ft range established by the Southwest Airlines FOM. The captain deployed the thrust reversers and then he and the first officer applied manual brakes, but according to the NTSB findings, under those conditions even maximum braking would not have prevented the aircraft from overrunning the end of the runway.

The NTSB released a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder where the flight’s Captain, Howard Peterson, was quoted as saying “Well, there goes my career.” moments after the accident.


Of the 142 persons on board, 2 passengers sustained serious injuries; 41 passengers and the captain sustained minor injuries; and 94 passengers, 3 flight attendants, and the first officer sustained no injuries. Clients represented by Berglund & Johnson received an excellent settlement in which they were compensated for their personal injuries and other damages suffered as a result of the crash. The airplane sustained extensive exterior damage and some internal damage to the passenger cabin. During the accident sequence, the forward service door (1R) escape slide inflated inside the airplane; the nose gear collapsed; and the forward dual flight attendant jumpseat, which was occupied by two flight attendants, partially collapsed.

The inflated escape slide blocked both forward doors from being used to evacuate the aircraft, and prevented two flight attendants seated on the forward jumpseat from assisting the evacuation. There was no fire, but had there been a fire, this malfunctioning slide would have dramatically affected the survivability of the occupants. As a result of this occurrence, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation to replace the slide cover latch brackets on forward slide compartments of all older Boeing 737 models to the latch brackets installed on later models.

As with runway 4R/22L at the Little Rock National Airport, site of the American Airlines Flight 1420 overrun accident, runway 8/26 in Burbank was exempt from the 1,000-foot (300 m) runway safety area standard. The NTSB cited this accident in a recommendation for installing the Engineered Materials Arrestor System (EMAS) at airports where it is not feasible to establish the 1,000-foot (300 m) runway safety area (RSA). A US $4,000,000 EMAS subsequently installed as a result of this accident at this airport, now the Bob Hope Airport, stopped a private jet carrying New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez on Friday, October 13, 2006 with no injuries or aircraft damage.
Dispute with City of Burbank

Burbank city officials demanded that Southwest Airlines pay their $40,000 bill for services, including overtime for police officers and firefighters, related to the March 5 accident. Southwest refused to pay stating that they are entitled to emergency services since they pay taxes to the city.

Lawyer Disclaimer:

The information stated above about the crash of Southwest Airlines Flight 1455, or other personal injury legal information presented above should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Please contact The Law Offices of Berglund & Johnson for a consultation regarding your particular personal injury matter. The lawyers of this firm are licensed only in California and have relationships with attorneys and law firms throughout the United States.

To speak with a lawyer about your possible case, please call 1-800-4-IF-HURT.