Officials are investigating a close encounter at a New York airport Friday night between a plane that was crossing the runway and another that was preparing to take off. This is reported by CBS New York both were “full of passengers”.
“(Profanity)! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” the air traffic controller said in the audio of the air traffic control communication when he noticed another American Airlines plane crossing ahead. The recording was made by LiveATC, a website that tracks and posts flight reports.
CBS New York reported that panic could be heard in the air traffic controller’s voice.
The Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 then came to a safe stop on the runway at JFK International Airport when the second one crossed in front of it around 8:45 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
According to CBS New York, there were 145 passengers and six crew members on board the Delta plane, which was heading to the Dominican Republic. 137 passengers and 14 crew members of the American Boeing 777 were flying to Great Britain.
The Delta plane came to rest about 1,000 feet from where the American Airlines plane crossed a nearby taxiway, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
The plane returned to the gate, where 145 passengers disembarked and were given an overnight stay, a Delta spokeswoman said. The flight to Santo Domingo airport in the Dominican Republic left on Saturday morning.
Brian Hill, a passenger on the Delta flight, said at first he thought the sudden stop was a mechanical problem.
“There was a sharp jerk of the plane, and everyone was kind of pushed forward from the waist,” he recalled. “When the braking happened, there was an audible gasp-like reaction. And then there was total silence for a couple of seconds.”
Hill, who was traveling with her husband on winter vacation, said it wasn’t until he was scrolling through Twitter the next day that he realized the seriousness of what might have happened on that runway.
“The pilot made the call to share information just on a need-to-know basis, and it was absolutely the right call because it would have been pandemonium,” he said.
John Cox, a retired pilot and aviation safety professor at the University of Southern California, said he thought the controller “made a good call to abandon takeoff.”
He said the aborted takeoff safety maneuver, which involves pilots stopping the plane and aborting takeoff, is one they are “very, very familiar with.”
“Pilots practice a missed takeoff almost every time they get on the simulator,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday it would investigate.
The National Transportation Safety Board also said it was looking into the case.
“They’re going to go back and listen to every transmission between the American plane and the air traffic control to see who didn’t understand what,” Cox said.
CBS New York quoted CBS News transportation safety analyst Robert Sumwalt, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, as saying: “At this point, we know that the American Airlines 777 appears to have been instructed to taxi to the left of runway 4. the plane did not turn right, but continued on the active runway.”
Delta said in a statement that it “will work with aviation authorities and assist them in their full investigation of Flight 1943 on January 13th regarding the successful aborted takeoff procedure from New York to JFK. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay to their travel.”
American Airlines declined to comment on the incident and said it would defer all questions to the FAA.
The worst aviation disaster in history was the collision between Pan Am and KLM jets on the runway of Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands in the late 1970s, killing 583 people on both planes.