Close call at New York airport as two planes nearly collide

One aircraft was crossing the runway as the other was preparing to take off

An American Airlines plane taxis at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York. One of the airline's jets was involved in a close call on Friday. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Officials are investigating a close call at a New York airport between a plane that was crossing a runway and another that was preparing for take-off.

The incident happened on Friday at John F Kennedy International Airport, between a Delta Air Lines plane headed to the Dominican Republic and an American Airlines plane headed to the UK.

“Delta 1943, cancel take-off clearance! Delta 1943, cancel take-off clearance,” an air controller shouted in an audio recording of Air Traffic Control communications when he noticed the other plane, operated by American Airlines, crossing in front.

Delta's Boeing 737 then came to a safe stop on the runway as the other crossed in front, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The recording was made by LiveATC, a website that monitors and posts flight communications.

Brian Healy, a passenger on the Delta flight, said at first he thought the abrupt stop was a mechanical issue.

“There was this abrupt jerk of the plane, and everyone was sort of thrust forward from the waist,” he said.

“There was an audible reaction when the brakes happened, like a gasp. And then there was a total silence for a couple of seconds.”

Mr Healy said that it wasn’t until he was scrolling on Twitter the next day that he realised the gravity of what could have happened on that runway.

“The pilot made the call to only share information on a need-to-know basis, and that was absolutely the right call, because it would have been pandemonium,” he said.

John Cox, a retired pilot and professor of aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said he thought the controller “made a good call to reject the take-off”.

He said the rejected take-off safety manoeuvre, which is when pilots stop the aircraft and discontinue the take-off, is one they are “very, very familiar with”.

“Pilots practice rejected take-off almost every time they get to the simulator,” he said.

The Delta plane stopped about 300 metres from where the American Airlines plane had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, the FAA said.

The plane returned to the gate, where the 145 passengers disembarked and were given overnight accommodation, a Delta representative said.

The flight to Santo Domingo Airport in the Dominican Republic took off on Saturday morning.

The FAA said it would investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board also said it was looking into the case.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 3:57 AM