The captain of a FedEx cargo plane that was cleared to land at Austin-Bergstrom Airport last month was concerned about the presence of a Southwest jet on the runway below.
The Boeing 767 cargo plane was several miles from the airport when it was cleared to land, according to the FAA, but just before it was about to land, an air traffic controller also gave the green light for the Southwest Boeing 737 to take off. exactly the same piece of asphalt.
According to federal investigators, the pilot requested and received confirmation that he could land. But as the FedEx plane made its way to the runway through foggy conditions, the flight’s first officer decided against attempting to complete the landing given how close the battle was to the Southwest.
“Southwest abort,” the FedEx crew broadcast, according to the federal report. “FedEx is on its way.”
The two planes appeared to be coming within 75 vertical feet of each other, though the NTSB continues to investigate the minimum distance between the planes.
This model shows how close the two planes came to an unplanned runway encounter
Images from the near miss show how close to the runway the FedEx plane and Southwest passenger flight collided
The FedEx plane had to take off suddenly and managed to climb hundreds of feet in seconds as the crew averted catastrophe
The FedEx plane climbed back into the air, away from the Southwest flight with 128 passengers on board, which continued to take off towards Cancún. The FedEx plane landed safely shortly afterwards.
The incident is one of a growing handful of recent airport close calls that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
The most recent incident occurred Monday, when a JetBlue pilot had to dodge a Learjet crossing the runway as the first plane was about to land.
So far, the incidents have caused no injuries, but the close calls have raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill and prompted the acting chief of the Federal Aviation Administration to release a memo in February guiding the industry toward a renewed focus on safety, the Washington Post.
The NTSB report does not specify what might have caused the close call on the runway in Austin, but stated that visibility was limited due to fog. However, traffic at the airport was limited at the time.
In an initial tweet on Saturday, the National Transportation Safety Board used jargon to downplay the incident, describing it as a “possible runway incursion and overflight involving Southwest Airlines and FedEx aircraft.”
The incident occurred early Saturday morning in Austin in poor visibility.
The FAA said FedEx Express Flight 1432, a Boeing 767 cargo jet, which had departed from Memphis, was cleared to land on runway 18 left at about 6:40 a.m. while the plane was several miles from the airport.
The Southwest plane had not yet taken off when the FedEx plane approached the runway.
Southwest has so far declined to comment. FedEx said its flight “landed safely after an event,” but declined to comment further due to ongoing investigations.
“FedEx Express Flight 1432 from Memphis, Tennessee to Austin, Texas landed safely after meeting an event just before landing at Austin Bergstrom International Airport this morning,” FedEx said in a statement,
Austin Airport said it was aware of the Federal Aviation Administration’s investigation into a flight’s aborted landing. We will assist our FAA partners and their investigations as necessary.”
In addition to the JetBlue and FedEx incidents, another close call at John F. Kennedy International Airport was averted last month after an American Airlines plane crossed a runway while a Delta Airlines Boeing 737 plane was preparing for takeoff on Jan. 13.
Air traffic controllers noticed a Boeing 777 had crossed over from an adjacent taxiway.
The FAA said the Delta Boeing 737 stopped its takeoff roll about 300 feet before reaching the point where American Airlines Flight 106 had crossed over.
The FedEx cargo plane was landing at Austin Bergstrom Airport when it had to stop
At one point, according to FlightRadar24, only 23 meters seemed to separate the two planes
The FedEx plane climbed back into the air, away from the Southwest flight with 128 passengers on board, which continued to take off toward Cancún.
Data from flight tracking websites suggests that the two planes did indeed get very close. Pictured is the route of the FedEx cargo plane as it had to abort landing and then circle around the airport
Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said two planes came within 100 feet of each other in a near miss Saturday in Austin.
After the first near miss Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, explained how close the planes were to catastrophe and said investigators are investigating how the incident could have happened.
The Boeing 767 approached the runway in poor visibility while a Southwest Boeing 737 was cleared for takeoff.
Homendy told me Politics“We’re really digging into the communication between[air traffic control]Southwest, FedEx — especially regarding weather issues.”
She said it was “quite clear that the planes were getting really close and we think it’s less than 100 feet.”