JAMAICA, QUEENS (WABC) — The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating after two planes nearly collided on the runway at JFK Airport on Friday night.
The air traffic controller saw what was about to happen and had one of the pilots stop their plane.
“(Profanity)! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” the air traffic controller said in the audio of the air traffic control communication when he noticed another American Airlines plane crossing ahead. The recording was made by LiveATC, a website that tracks and posts flight reports.
A Delta passenger jet was flying to the Dominican Republic when an American Airlines plane overran the runway, according to the FAA.
The pilot initiated the emergency stop protocol after the plane had already reached 115 mph.
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The Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 came to a safe stop on the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport when a second plane crossed in front of it around 8:45 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
According to the FAA statement, the Delta plane came to rest about 1,000 feet (about 0.3 kilometers) from where the American Airlines plane crossed the adjacent taxiway.
The American Airlines pilot did not have permission to cross the runway. This plane left for a flight to London about 20 minutes later.
Retired JFK air traffic controller Steven Abraham says the airport has a radar surveillance system that alerts controllers when another plane strays from an active runway.
“When it activates, the cacophony of sound in the tower goes completely silent. It’s a very overwhelming experience,” said Stephen Abraham. “And everyone immediately looks at the radar display, and then they pick a target from the radar display and look out the window. Fortunately, his reaction time was quick. The flight crew’s reaction time was also quick, which prevented something worse.”
The Delta plane, which aborted takeoff and returned to the gate, and its 145 passengers were given an overnight stay and continued their journey the next morning.
Brian Hill, a passenger on the Delta flight, said at first he thought the sudden stop was a mechanical problem.
“There was a sharp jerk of the plane, and everyone was kind of pushed forward from the waist,” he recalled. “When the braking happened, there was an audible gasp-like reaction. And then there was total silence for a couple of seconds.”
Hill, who was on a winter vacation in the Dominican Republic with her husband, said it wasn’t until he was scrolling through Twitter the next day that he realized the gravity of what might have happened on that runway.
“The pilot made the call to share information just on a need-to-know basis, and it was absolutely the right call because it would have been pandemonium,” he said.
Twitter user @xJonNYC, who first broke the story, said it was nothing short of a miracle that a potential disaster was averted.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday it would investigate. The National Transportation Safety Board also said it was looking into the case.
“Obviously mistakes were made, human error was involved, so the real key here now is finding out who did it, what the circumstances were, but most importantly, finding ways to put procedures in place to make sure it never happens again.” said ABC News contributor and retired USMC Col. Steve Gunyard.
American Airlines declined to comment on the incident and said it would defer all questions to the FAA.
“Delta will cooperate with aviation authorities and assist them in their full investigation of Flight 1943 on January 13th regarding the successful aborted takeoff procedure at New York-JFK. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delays to their trips,” said a Delta spokesperson. the statement said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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