Boeing would have to recall 1,100 of its 737 jetliners to correct landing problems under a proposal being drafted by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Official estimates were still being prepared yesterday, but some industry analysts say the program could cost more than $10 million.
The plane is one of the most widely used in the world. As of Wednesday, Boeing had delivered 1,497 such jets in all, although later-model 737-300s are not involved.
In Seattle, FAA officials confirmed they are writing a proposed "airworthiness directive," similar to an automobile recall.
The decision comes nearly 1 1/2 years after a Boeing 737-200 overran a Charlotte, N.C., runway and crashed, injuring 34 on board. The $20 million plane was a total loss.
The pilots told investigators they landed properly but could not stop the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board, however, blamed the pilots for landing too fast and too far down the rainy runway.
Since then, FAA authorities in Seattle have said they believe the Charlotte accident was one of a pattern.
FAA Northwest Region spokesman Dick Meyers said yesterday that the directive being drafted would require Boeing and airlines that fly Boeing 737-100s and 737-200s to install a radio device that can sense when the airplane is within a few feet of the runway.
That could head off a sequence that sometimes makes it difficult to stop the planes.
Now, upon touchdown, landing wheels must begin spinning to trigger spoilers that automatically pop up from the wings to decrease lift and increase drag.
If the wheels skid, as they may on a wet runway, pilots must deploy the spoilers manually. That can take several seconds.
Meanwhile, pilots say, because the wings continue to support the weight of the plane, a ground sensor mounted on the landing gear fails to trip.
That sensor, meant to keep pilots from accidentally deploying landing devices while the plane is airborne, keeps the pilot from reversing the thrust of the twin jet engines. Reverse thrust is important in slowing the plane from its 160 mph touchdown speed to about 80 mph, when wheel brakes become effective.