The aviation industry is facing ‘the most important disaster in its history’ after a near miss between two airplanes in Austin on Saturday became the second time in lower than a month that a catastrophic collision has nearly happened at a U.S. airport.
A Boeing 767 FedEx cargo plane landing at Austin-Bergstrom International got here inside lower than 100ft of a Southwest Airlines 737 aircraft that was taking off from the identical runway.
Analysts say only the quick-thinking of the FedEx pilot prevented a collision.
The incident follows the same near miss at John F. Kennedy International in Recent York City on Friday, January 13, when a Delta flight was forced to perform an emergency stop during takeoff while an American Airlines plane crossed the identical runway.
Now, after two serious incidents in lower than a month, industry analysts are asking how near misses of this magnitude could occur at two major American airports – and whether current safety protocols are adequate.
The FedEx flight (orange within the Flightradar247 image) approaches the runway because the Southwest aircraft begins its take off. The planes come inside lower than 100ft of one another
The FedEx flight abandons its landing because the Southwest aircraft continues its takeoff. They steer to the left and right respectively to avoid contact. Multiple industry analysts have said the instructions from Air Traffic Control look like a think about the nail-biting incident
Near misses – or ‘incursions’ – of this severity are incredibly rare.
There have been 1,732 incursion in 2022 in around 17 million flights handled by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). But of those, only a handful were ‘Category A’, defined as ‘a serious incident wherein a collision was narrowly avoided’. Most recorded cases cover incidents with ‘no immediate safety consequences’.
Aviation expert and pilot Juan Browne said: ‘These type of incidents are increasing at an alarming rate.
‘There is a huge turnover within the industry, not only amongst pilots but amongst air traffic controllers, mechanics, mainters, rampers. And with the state of hiring practices and training today and the relentless effort to do things faster, cheaper and more efficiently we’re only one radio call away from having the most important aviation disaster in history.’
In each the JFK and Austin-Bergstrom incidents, experts have said directions issued by air traffic controllers appear to have been a difficulty.
The near miss incident at JFK on January 13 occurred when a Delta aircraft which was about to take off needed to perform an emergency stop after an American Airlines plane crossed onto the runway
What are the foundations on serious incursions?
The Federal Aviation Administration has 4 categories of runway incursion (when a plane, vehicle or person is incorrectly on a runway).
These range from Category D (least serious) to Category A (most severe).
Category D has ‘no immediate safety consequences’, while the following stage, Category C, says there may be ‘ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision’.
Category B demonstrates ‘significant potential’ for a collision.
Category A is ‘a series incident wherein a collision was narrowly avoided’ – the ultimate stage before an accident itself occurring.
The near miss on Friday 13 at JFK was defined by US Department of Transportation general Mary Schiavo as being a Category A incursion
In a technical breakdown of the circumstances across the near miss in Austin, Browne said the Southwestern aircraft mustn’t have been cleared for takeoff when the FedEx flight was approaching to land – particularly given the poor weather and low visibility.
He said the FedEx aircraft was preparing for an autoland, where the aircraft’s on-board computers control the landing. The pilot could be focused on the displays within the cockpit, not searching of the window.
‘There’s nothing to have a look at outside,’ said Browne within the video posted to his blancolirio YouTube channel. ‘You are making a low-visibility landing so if any individual is on the market in front of you… [the pilot] would not even give you the chance to see it.’
He added: ‘For this reason it is so critical that there should never have been an aircraft cleared to take off in front of the aircraft landing doing an autolanding.’
Browne said the FedEx pilot ‘showed the situational awareness’ to comprehend air traffic controllers had just cleared one other aircraft for takeoff.
He also referred to chilling audio from the direct radio exchange between the pilots of the FedEx and Southwest flights. Despite being moments from potential disaster, the pilots remain calm.
‘That was not the tower [talking during the audio] – the tower has lost control of the situation – that was FedEx realizing what’s happened and is directing the Southwest aircraft to abort, but Southwest is already moving down the runway.,’ Browne said.
The FedEx cargo plane was coming into land at Austin Bergstrom Airport when it was forced to drag up (stock image)
The FedEx plane aborted its landing and the Southwest flight took off. Flightradar footage shows how perilously close the 2 aircraft got here to colliding.
Within the January incident at JFK, the American Airlines plane crossed a runway while a Delta Boeing 737 plane was preparing for takeoff. The Delta plane stopped about 1,000 feet from where the American Airlines plane had crossed from an adjoining taxiway.
Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transport Safety Board, said the FedEx and Southwest flights got here inside lower than 100ft of one another
Audio of the radio exchange during that near miss is much more panicked.
An air traffic controller who realized what was unfolding is heard exclaiming: ‘S***! F***! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!’
Each incidents are currently under investigation by the FAA. Meanwhile, several experts have said human error by air traffic control staff appears to have contributed to each incidents.
Each the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union and the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations declined to comment because of the continuing investigations.
Kit Darby, an aviation consultant and former United Airlines pilot, told DailyMail.com that he believes safety protocols to avoid near misses are adequate, but added: ‘It’s a really large, very complicated system that is counting on humans, and humans make mistakes.’
Experts have praised the pilot of the FedEx flight for his quick pondering after the cargo plane aborted its landing to avoid the Southwest aircraft the was preparing to take off (stock photo)
Southwest declined to comment on the incident and referred to the FAA statement, which said it was investigating the incident
He said near misses are ‘typically brought on by communication failure [and] misunderstanding’.
‘The bottom is one in all the worst places for this,’ he said. ‘When it comes time to take off and land, airplanes get very close to one another so there will be airplane just in need of the runway as an airplane lands just a number of hundred feet away.
Aviation consultant and former pilot Kit Derby said pilots undertake quarterly training which is prone to include a concentrate on incursions following the 2 incidents
‘Once they are already close together, the miscommunication becomes critical.’
Other risk aspects for a near miss include the variety of runways at an airport, the variety of runway intersections and variety of taxi ways for aircraft, he said.
Pilots undertake regular reviews to remain sharp, including quarterly training that covers topical issues and up to date incidents, Darby said.
‘I can just about guarantee that they’re going to be talking about runway incursion, which is high on the list anyway, now that we have had a pair in succession.
‘You possibly can ensure that there’s going to be reemphasis on the procedures which might be in place.’
The Tenerife airport disaster: Seventies plane collision that killed almost 600 people in deadliest accident in aviation history
Two Boeing 747 passenger planes collided at Los Rodeos Airport (now the Tenerife North Airport) on March 27, 1977 within the deadliest aviation accident in history.
Each flights had been redirected to the airport on the Spanish island of Tenerife that day after members of the Canary Islands Independence Movement set off a bomb on the Gran Canaria Airports.
The airport quickly became congested with parked airplanes blocking the one taxiway and forcing departing planes onto the runway.
The issue got here when KLM flight 4805 was starting its takeoff run while Pan-Am flight 1736 was still on the runway.
The impact and resulting fire killed everyone on board the KLM flight and a lot of the occupants of the Pan-Am flight, leaving only 61 survivors within the front of the aircraft.
There have been 583 fatalities.
The Tenerife Airport disaster was the deadliest aviation accident in history
A subsequent Spanish investigation found that the KLM pilot mistakenly thought he had takeoff clearance.
Meanwhile, Dutch investigators said there was a mutual misunderstanding within the radio communications between the pilot and air traffic control.
But ultimately KLM admitted that their crew was responsible, and the airline agreed to compensate the relatives of all of the victims.
Following the disaster, airports world wide agreed to make use of standardized phrasing of their radio communications.