After a near-collision between a Delta and an American Airlines aircraft at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday night, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it will investigate the incident.
Reportedly, American Airlines Flight 106, a Boeing 777, crossed a runway in front of the oncoming Delta Air Lines Flight 1943, a Boeing 737, at 8:45 p.m. on Friday, according to the FAA.
The close call apparently occurred when American Airlines pilots misunderstood directions from air traffic controllers.
Ross Feinstein, a former spokesman for both the Transportation Security Administration and American Airlines, has reviewed the publicly available radar and recordings of conversations between air traffic controllers and the pilots.
Radar records and recordings of those conversations reveal an air traffic controller telling the American Airlines plane to “cross Runway 31 Left,” which would require it to turn right before coming around to line up for departure on Runway 4 Left behind the Delta plane.
In the recording, the American Airlines pilot audibly confirms, “Cross 31 Left.” The Delta pilot then confirms: “Cleared for takeoff, Runway 4 Left, Delta 1943.”
According to Feinstein, the radar shows the American Airlines flight, instead of turning right to cross Runway 31 Left, turning first left then right and proceeding straight across Runway 4 Left as the Delta plane began its takeoff.
As the plane’s motion begins, one controller orders the American Airlines plane, “Hold position!” and another controller says twice, “Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!”
The air traffic controllers had seen the American Airlines craft crossing the runway in front of the departing Delta jetliner, stopping it at a distance of approximately 1,000 feet and averting disaster, according to a statement made by the FAA.
Delta Flight 1943 had to abort its takeoff from its course set for Santo Domingo Airport in the Dominican Republic.
None of its 145 passengers or six crew members were injured, Delta said in a statement. The aircraft was safely stopped on Runway 4 Left.
Passengers deplaned from the Delta aircraft after returning to the gate. Delta described the incident as a “successful aborted takeoff procedure.”
The company went on to say that, due to an issue with crew resources, there was a flight delay and passengers were provided overnight lodgings.
Flight 1943 finally departed at 10:17 a.m. Saturday.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always Delta’s number one priority,” Delta said in the statement. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay of their travels.”
Alongside the FAA’s review of the near miss, the National Transportation Safety Board will also be investigating the incident, the agency announced Sunday afternoon.
According to Feinstein, occurrences such as this are quite rare in the United States.
Shortly after the incident, recordings show that an American Airlines pilot asked air traffic controllers to confirm that they had been given clearance to cross.
While confirming the last transmission, the controller clarified, “You were supposed to depart Runway 4 Left. You’re currently holding short of 31 Left.”
Delta Airlines plans to work with and assist aviation authorities in the full review and investigation of the incident.
Americans Airlines has deferred to the FAA when asked for comment.
Additional information on the incident was not immediately available and it will likely be weeks before the findings from the investigations are announced.