LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Dunedin, Florida -- What's it like in the cockpit of a 737 jet when an emergency like the Southwest Airlines gear failure happens? We took a ride in a flight simulator to get a closer look.

At Sim Center Tampa Bay in Dunedin, they've replicated a 737 jet -- the same type as the plane that skidded down the runway at LaGuardia when its landing gear collapsed -- down to every dial and gauge.

Peter Repak adjusted levers and scanned his eyes across an array of screens in a hyper-realistic cockpit as we cruised over New York City.

Then on our simulated approach to New York's LaGuardia Airport, Repak reached forward and moved the lever that lowered the landing gear, just as the crew of Southwest flight 345 did Sunday.

"And now all three are green, so all three landing gears are down," Repak said, gesturing to three rectangular lights. Each glowed green -- "LEFT GEAR," "RIGHT GEAR," and "NOSE GEAR."

"If you're a pilot, you have to rely on what it says?" I asked.

"That means the landing gears are down and locked, so that they are locked in place, the hydraulics worked correctly," said Repak, who owns thecenter in Dunedin where anyone can come fly a737 or either aF-16 orF-35 fighter jet.

"And everything to me, as far as a pilot indicates, three green -- that means I'm ready for a landing."

If the green lights never come on, there are several procedures to try and fix the problem. But if the indicators light up, that's what pilots rely on.

We don't know everything about either of the incidents, but comparing theAsiana crash in San Francisco with theSouthwest gear failure at LaGuardia shows a significant difference, Repak said.

"Huge -- in every possible way that you could think of. Because that was probably an unforseen accident that's what happened with the Southwest crash. You could not know if the landing gear is going to collapse," Repak said.

"But the Asiana -- it was beautiful weather, there was no inclement weather, there was no visibility problem, there was no wind problem -- there was nothing."

Our landing passed the moment when flight 345's landing gear buckled beneath it, skidding to a stop on its belly in a shower of sparks.

As we touched down smoothly, Repak remained faithful in American planes and the people who fly them.

"These airplanes are made incredibly robust. They're made for a lot more than what actually happens to them. So, today, it's the safest thing to do, as far as flying."

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wtsp.com/1lUF6yV