NEW YORK – Authorities are investigating a close call at a New York airport Friday night between a plane crossing a runway and another preparing to take off.
“(Explotive)! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” an air traffic controller said in an audio recording of Air Traffic Control communications when he noticed the other plane, operated by American Airlines, cross ahead.The recording was made by LiveATCa website that monitors and publishes flight communications.
The departing Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 plane came to a stop safely on the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport when the other one crossed ahead around 8:45 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Brian Heale, a passenger on the Delta flight, said he initially thought the abrupt stop was a mechanical problem.
“There was this abrupt jolt of the plane, and everyone was pushed forward from the waist up,” he recalled. “There was an audible reaction when the brakes happened, like a gasp. And then there was total silence for a couple of seconds.”
Heale, who was traveling with her husband for their winter getaway to the Dominican Republic, said it wasn’t until she scrolled through Twitter the next day that she realized the gravity of what could have happened at that track.
“The pilot made the call to share information only when it was necessary, and that was absolutely the right decision, 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 decision to refuse takeoff.”
He said the aborted takeoff safety maneuver, which is when pilots stop the aircraft and abort takeoff, is one they are “very, very familiar with.”
“The pilots practice the rejected takeoff almost every time they get to the simulator,” he said.
The Delta plane came to a stop about 1,000 feet (about 0.3 kilometers) from where the American Airlines plane had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, according to the FAA statement.
The plane returned to the gate, where the 145 passengers disembarked and were provided overnight accommodations, a Delta spokesman said. The flight to the Santo Domingo airport in the Dominican Republic took off on Saturday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday it will investigate.
The National Transportation Safety Board also said it was investigating the case.
“They will go back and listen to every transmission between the US plane and air traffic control to see who misunderstood what,” Cox said.
“Delta will work with and assist aviation authorities in a full review of Flight 1943 on January 13 regarding a successful aborted takeoff procedure at New York-JFK. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay in their travel,” a Delta spokesperson said in a statement.
American Airlines had no comment on the incident and said it will refer all questions to the FAA.