The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating yet another close call between commercial airliners, this time at Reagan National Airport near Washington, DC – the seventh since the start of this year.
On March 7, Republic Airways Flight 4736 crossed a runway, without clearance, that United Airlines Flight 2003 was using for takeoff, according to a preliminary review, the FAA said. The United pilot had just been cleared for takeoff from the runway, the agency said.
“An air traffic controller noticed the situation and immediately canceled the takeoff clearance for the United flight,” the FAA said.
Recordings accessed from LiveATC.net show air traffic controllers in the tower exclaiming, “United 2003 cancel takeoff clearance!” The crew of the United flight responded, “Aborting takeoff, United 2003.”
The pilot of the Republic flight had been cleared to cross a different runway, “but turned on the wrong taxiway,” the FAA said.
The news of yet another close call comes ahead of Wednesday’s FAA safety summit, the first of its kind since 2009. The summit kicks off a sweeping safety review that the agency is conducting in the wake of these incursions.
Last month, a Southwest passenger jet and a FedEx cargo plane came as close as 100 feet from colliding at an Austin, Texas, airport, and it was a pilot – not air traffic controllers – who averted disaster, according to Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
And in January, there was an alarming close call similar to this latest one. A Delta Air Lines flight was taking off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport when air traffic controllers “noticed another aircraft crossing the runway in front of the departing jetliner,” the FAA said in a statement.
“S–t!” exclaimed the controller from the tower of John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday night. “Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance!”
The Delta plane “stopped its takeoff roll approximately 1,000 feet before reaching the point where American Airlines Flight 106, a Boeing 777, had crossed from an adjacent taxiway,” the FAA said.
The NTSB – which is investigating the six other runway incursions involving commercial airliners – told CNN it is aware of the latest incident but has not yet launched an investigation.