On December 8, 2005, about 1914 central standard time, Southwest Airlines (SWA) flight 1248, a Boeing 737-7H4, N471WN, ran off the departure end of runway 31C after landing at Chicago Midway International Airport, Chicago, Illinois. The airplane rolled through a blast fence, an airport perimeter fence, and onto an adjacent roadway, where it struck an automobile before coming to a stop. A child in the automobile was killed, one automobile occupant received serious injuries, and three other automobile occupants received minor injuries. Eighteen of the 103 airplane occupants (98 passengers, 3 flight attendants, and 2 pilots) received minor injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 and had departed from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Baltimore, Maryland, about 1758 eastern standard time. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.
Contributing to the accident were Southwest Airlines' 1) failure to provide its pilots with clear and consistent guidance and training regarding company policies and procedures related to arrival landing distance calculations; 2) programming and design of its on board performance computer, which did not present inherent assumptions in the program critical to pilot decision-making; 3) plan to implement new autobrake procedures without a familiarization period; and 4) failure to include a margin of safety in the arrival assessment to account for operational uncertainties. Also contributing to the accident was the pilots' failure to divert to another airport given reports that included poor braking action and a tailwind component greater than 5 knots. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the absence of an engineering materials arresting system, which was needed because of the limited runway safety area beyond the departure end of runway 31C.
The safety issues discussed in this report include the flight crew's decisions and actions, the clarity of assumptions used in on board performance computers, SWA policies, guidance, and training, arrival landing distance assessments and safety margins, runway surface condition assessments and braking action reports, airplane-based friction measurements, and runway safety areas.