As an update on my Christmas Miracle story about the Continental 737 that ran off the runway in Denver and burst into flames with only minor injuries, USA Today is saying that sources are speculating that the pilot might be to blame.
A preliminary report released by investigators suggests that the pilot was fighting a strong crosswind on the takeoff run. Instead of using the rudder pedals to keep the aircraft on the centreline he tried to correct using the nosewheel steering. This is dangerous and, if true, just plain dumb.
The wheel, highlighted by the arrow is made to allow turning at low speed. Anyone who’s been on a commercial airplane at a large airport knows there’s no such thing as a straight line from the runway to the gate. Without the ability to turn those front wheels the pilots would have to rely on brakes and power (just as I have to do in the little Cessna).
As you start a takeoff, either in a Cessna 172 or a Boeing 737, all steering is done with the rudder which is the moveable part of the tail fin. To try any other steering method is dangerous and crazy.
Once again, this is only a preliminary report but as a possible cause it’s a doozy.