Moment air traffic controllers try to avoid a crash at Austin airport
Newly-released audio details the moment a FedEx cargo pilot desperately tried to avoid a crash at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas.
The audio revealed that the crew onboard a Southwest flight headed to Cancun, Mexico, early Saturday morning were aware that the cargo plane was approaching the runway when they got the OK to depart.
But the flight remained grounded on the runway as the Boeing 767 cargo plane started to land. The FedEx crew managed to be professional as it tried to get the Southwest flight to ‘abort’ its takeoff.
The Southwest crew, though, refused to do so, and took off just 75 vertical feet from the oncoming cargo flight.
Fortunately, the crew reacted quickly and aborted their landing just in time to avoid what could have been a fatal crash. The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are now investigating the incident.
A FedEx cargo plane nearly crashed into a departing Southwest flight early Saturday morning at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas
Air traffic control recordings released Saturday night shows that at around 6.47am, the tower cleared Southwest for takeoff — noting that the FedEx plane is just three miles behind them and was approaching the 18 Left runway.
‘Copy the traffic,’ the pilot responds.
Soon, the FedEx pilot could be heard asking if he is confirmed to land on runway 18 Left, which an air traffic controller tells him he is.
But when the Southwest flight remains on the runway, air traffic controllers asked if it was planning to depart.
‘Rolling now,’ the pilot responds.
At that point, Travel Weekly reports, the FedEx crew initiated a go-around and told the Southwest crew they should abort their takeoff.
‘Southwest abort,’ a male voice, presumably the FedEx pilot, could be heard telling the crew: ‘FedEx is on the go.’
Instead, the Southwest crew just replies ‘negative’ and begins climbing into the air.
The Boeing 767 cargo plane then completed its go-around and landed shortly after without incident, Travel Weekly reports.
After it landed and cleared the runway, the Austin-American Statesman reports, air traffic controllers apologize to the pilot and thanks him for his professionalism.
Air traffic control recordings released Saturday night shows that at around 6.47am, the tower cleared Southwest for takeoff — noting that the FedEx plane is just three miles behind them and was approaching the 18 Left runway
The Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, in yellow, had remained on the runway as the FedEx Boeing 767, in orange, had been cleared to land
The altitude of the FedEx plane shows it descending before a sudden and sharp gain in altitude
The FedEx cargo plane was coming into land at Austin Bergstrom Airport when it was forced to pull up (stock image)
The FAA has previously said that the FedEx Express Flight 1432, a Boeing 767 cargo plane, which had departed from Memphis, was cleared to land on Runway 18-Left around 6:40am while the aircraft was several miles from the airport.
The Southwest plane had not yet departed when the FedEx plane was approaching the runway.
‘Shortly before the FedEx aircraft was due to land, the controller cleared Southwest Flight 708 to depart from the same runway,’ the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
‘The pilot of the FedEx airplane discontinued the landing and initiated a climb out.’
The Southwest flight to Cancun, Mexico still continued its takeoff even while the FedEx cargo plane was directly above it.
The Southwest jet was able to depart safely, according to the FAA.
Data from flight tracking websites suggest the two planes came very close indeed. Pictured, the FedEx cargo plane’s route which saw it having to abort landing and then circle the airport
Meanwhile, in a tweet Saturday, the National Transportation Safety Board used jargon to downplay the incident describing it as a ‘possible runway incursion and overflight involving airplanes from Southwest Airlines and FedEx.’
Southwest has so far declined to comment. FedEx said its flight ‘safely landed after encountering an event,’ but declined to further comment because of the ongoing investigations.
The FAA and NTSB said they are investigating the serious incident.
‘FedEx Express Flight 1432 from Memphis, Tennessee to Austin, Texas safely landed after encountering an event just before landing at Austin Bergstrom International Airport this morning,’ FedEx said in a statement,
Austin Airport said it was ‘aware of the Federal Aviation Administration’s investigation into the discontinued landing of a flight. We will assist our FAA partners and their investigation as necessary.’
Authorities say the incident occurred in poor visibility conditions.