Federal authorities have launched an investigation into a runway collision between two private planes at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport on Tuesday.
No one was injured in the mishap, although it did cause airport operations to shut down for over three hours.
Early reports indicate that the collision was caused by a Hawker H25B business jet initiating takeoff without appropriate clearance from air traffic control. It ended up making contact with a Cessna C510 jet that had landed at the airport moments before.
Hobby Airport announced a temporary closure from about 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to clean up the debris.
“It was a wing-to-rudder-type contact,” explained Oliver Brown, an aviation expert and former commercial pilot, according to WFAA.
“It’s going to be interesting if the pilots tried to abort or what elusive [sic] maneuvers they took,” he continued, noting that the Hawker appeared to have been going too fast to safely abort takeoff at the time of impact. “This is a very fortunate outcome. This is the most serious infraction that pilots can be involved in.”
“Luckily they didn’t strike in the middle of each other because we’d be talking about a whole ‘nother catastrophe,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate the matter further.
For instance, The New York Times recently found that close calls among commercial flights are happening more frequently, with approximately 300 near collisions logged this year and 46 in July alone.
While air traffic controllers, pilots, and mechanics have been in short supply since the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic understaffing has eroded morale and increased the chances for human error, the newspaper found.
Hobby Airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Delta, and Allegiant. The stoppage led to the diversion of at least 11 flights and several cancellations.
“There’s a lot of confusion around here. There’s several hundred people milling about in the terminal,” a passenger named Graham Sheldon told KHOU 11 at the time.