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Special Event

Kelleher: 'I Was Very Grateful for the Outcome' of the Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 Incident

Aired March 6, 2000 - 10:33 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're taking you now to Dallas, Texas, where there's a press conference being held with Southwest Airlines. I believe this is Herb Kelleher, it is Herb Kelleher, and he will be addressing the plane accident that -- or incident, rather, that took place in Southern California. Southwest Airline plane skidded off the runway onto a roadway in Burbank, California. We've been covering that story for you all throughout the morning. And he's now going to address us. We're going to listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

HERB KELLEHER, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CEO: I thought that I would start off by updating you on some of the things that we have learned since the press conference that I held at 11:00 last evening. As you all know by now, Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 from Las Vegas to Burbank overran the runway at Burbank International Airport, last night, at approximately 6:00 Pacific Standard Time. That airplane was N-668, that's its registration number. It was manufactured in 1985.

The National Transportation Safety Board is on the scene. It is in charge of the investigation as to what caused the overrun. And as you all know, the National Transportation Safety Board is experienced, very capable and very expert in what it does. They are indeed specialists in aircraft accidents.

We are currently in the process of removing the aircraft from the roadway in Burbank. Fuel is being taken off the airplane. Cranes are standing by to remove it. Everybody is working as fast as they possibly can, and once the aircraft is removed, we'll, for the first time, will be able to make an accurate assessment of the damage to the aircraft itself.

There were 137 passengers on board in addition to two pilots and three flight attendants. Our Burbank employees have worked very effectively and directly with all of the passengers since the accident happened. Up to 15 passengers are now reporting some kind of injury, fortunately none of them serious in nature or life-threatening. Only four passengers were taken to local hospitals immediately following the accident, and two of those have already been released.

All but one passenger originated in Las Vegas, that's where they got on the airplane, and the other passenger originated in Salt Lake City. It appears that the majority of the passengers on board that flight were California -- or are California residents. We will not released any of the passengers' names without their permission. A family center has been established in Burbank to provide passengers with information and assistance.

The captain of Flight 1455 received a blow to the head and was treated and released from a local hospital. He was hired at Southwest Airlines in 1988, and he has more than 18,000 flying hours. He is a very experienced pilot. He has been flying 737s since 1980, and he is Oakland-based. The first officer of Flight 1455 was taken to a local hospital for evaluation only and released shortly thereafter. He was hired at Southwest Airlines in 1996 and has 15 years of flying experience. Both pilots have had four or five days off duty before they reported to take this flight, and this was the first flight of their duty day.

There has been some comment that I've seen and heard to the effect that it was raining in Burbank at the time that Flight 1455 landed. There had been rain in Burbank earlier in the day, but it had ceased about four hours prior to landing in question. As a matter of fact, one of our previous flights into Burbank landed uneventfully two minutes prior to Flight 1455.

Normal operations are expected both in Burbank and across Southwest Airline system today.

And I think that that's all the additional information that I have, additional to what was imparted to you last evening. And if you'd raise your hands, I'd be delighted to call on you for questions -- yes.

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Kelleher, I just want to know if you have -- have you had an opportunity to speak with those pilots, your first officer as well. Obviously, a lot of people have had an opportunity to talk to some of those passengers. What are your pilots telling you about this incident?

KELLEHER: I have not talked to either of our pilots.

QUESTION: Have you talked to someone who's talked with them about this incident?

KELLEHER: No, I have not.

QUESTION: There's no indication from them at all, any kind of explanation at this point from the people who were flying that plane?

KELLEHER: Well, since I haven't talked to them or anybody that talked to them, yes, there is no explanation as of this time -- Yes.

QUESTION: Herb, when you saw the pictures yourself, when you first saw that it landed just a matter of feet from a gas station, that no one was hurt, that the highway was empty except for a couple of cars, what -- what were your feelings? What were you thinking about?

KELLEHER: Well, I'll be very honest with you, my feeling was that we were very fortunate that it wasn't worse than it was and that Southwest Airlines' worldwide acclaimed safety record for having operated the most flights and carried the most passengers without a fatality was indeed still intact. So, I was very grateful for the outcome.

QUESTION: Herb, do you know where the plane land on the runway?

KELLEHER: No, I don't. I don't have any information with respect to where it touched down.

QUESTION: How about the customers who (OFF-MIKE)?

KELLEHER: I have no indication one way or another.

QUESTION: Excuse me for interrupting you, but our listeners are having a little trouble hearing on here.

KELLEHER: They are?

QUESTION: Is this disrupting anyone's angle? OK.

KELLEHER: OK? Thank you.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Is the runway at Burbank short -- shorter than normal, and did that contribute?

KELLEHER: Well, we serve runways of this lengths all across our systems; some of them are shorter than others and some of them are longer than others. The runway at Burbank is 6,000 feet long.

QUESTION: Herb, what have you heard from your go-team? They got out there, they called you as soon as they got on the ground, took a look at things.

KELLEHER: Actually, I have not talk to the go-team myself. Other people at Southwest Airlines have been in touch with them, but I don't know the content of those conversation personally.

QUESTION: That plane went through a...

PHILLIPS: You're listening to Herb Kelleher, the president and CEO of Southwest Airlines. He is telling reporters still there is no explanation to why Flight 1455, coming from Las Vegas to Burbank, slid off the runway onto the roadway, but he did say the NTSB is there investigating the incident, currently removing aircraft from the runway, working diligently to do that because once it's removed they will be able to assess the damage. There were 137 passengers on board, two pilots, three flight attendants. Up to 15 passengers reported injuries, not serious. Only four were taken to local hospitals; two were released. The majority of those passengers were from California. A family center has been established in Burbank to answer any questions for family members, also the passengers. The captain did receive a blow to the head, but he was treated and released from a hospital. Mr. Kelleher talked about how experienced that captain was, also the co-captain; both very experienced pilots. And normal operation will continue in Burbank today.

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