AUSTIN (KXAN) — A report released Thursday afternoon sheds new light on the moment when two planes came close to colliding last month on the runway at Austin Airport.
The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has shared its first look at its investigation into a “runway incursion with an overflight” that occurred on the morning of February 4 between a FedEx cargo plane attempting to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the departing Southwest flight. Airlines flight to Cancun. The report did not specify how close the two planes were that morning, adding that further investigation would be needed to determine this. However, a presentation from the NTSB provided a perspective on their positions when a FedEx plane flew over the Southwest flight.
The report detailed how FedEx pilots first called the air traffic control tower in Austin around 6:34 a.m. to share that they were heading to land, according to audio recordings reviewed by the NTSB. Investigators said a controller ordered them to land on runway 18L.
About four minutes later at 6:38 a.m., the crew of the Southwest flight carrying 128 passengers to Cancun called air traffic control about “preparing to take off” on the same runway. According to the report, the controller told the Southwest crew that the FedEx flight was about three miles away from landing. However, the controller “issued them a standard takeoff clearance from Runway 18L,” the report says. Investigators said the Southwest crew then lined up the plane and prepared for takeoff.
A minute later, the FedEx pilots apparently asked air traffic control if they could still land after the captain heard radio traffic about the Southwest flight, according to the NTSB report. “The controller confirmed that FDX1432 had cleared for landing and informed them that traffic (SWA708) was leaving Runway 18L ahead,” the report explained.
At about 6:40 a.m., when the FedEx cargo plane was less than a mile away from landing, the captain of the Southwest flight told air traffic control that he was “rolling now” to depart. About 150 feet off the ground, the captain of the FedEx plane said, his first officer called “Go-Orange” after seeing the departing Southwest flight approach the end of the runway. Shortly thereafter, the report described FedEx staff broadcasting “Southwest abort” and then “FedEx on the move,” which could be heard from radio chatter previously released to the public.
“the [Austin Airport Air Traffic Control Tower Air Traffic Manager] reported overflights occurring; However, the nearest location has not yet been determined,” the report described.[The Southwest flight] They continued their itinerary to Cancun, and [FedEx] It made a run and returned to land without incident on runway 18L.”
According to the NTSB, weather conditions that day included calm winds, quarter-mile visibility in freezing fog, and a temperature around 33 degrees. Investigators also said “there was very low traffic volume and complexity in Australia” at the time.
The report explained how NTSB investigators are now analyzing the digital flight data recorders as well as the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System computers from both planes. However, the book states, “Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVRs) have been overwritten.”
Interviews were also conducted with the pilots involved along with air traffic controllers from Austin.
NTSB participated and no one was hurt. It also indicated that the information shared in this report is preliminary and subject to change.
According to a FAA report, 2022 saw more than 1,700 close calls, like the situation in Austin. This is higher than the previous year. The report said that experimental error is due to the majority of these cases.
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