FAA investigates runway incursion that led to near crash between planes in New York

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the near collision between two airliners at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday.

An FAA spokesperson told FOX Business that the potential collision was averted when a Boeing 737 operated by Delta Air Lines “made a safe stop” as it was starting to take off “after air traffic controllers noticed another aircraft crossing the runway. ahead of the departing plane.” The statement added: “According to a preliminary analysis, Delta Air Lines Flight 1943 stopped its takeoff approximately 1,000 feet before reaching the point where American Airlines Flight 106, a Boeing 777, crossed from an adjacent taxiway.” .

The FAA emphasized that its investigation is ongoing and that the information is preliminary and subject to change. The agency did not respond to a question about whether the incident was classified in the FAA’s four categories for runway incursions, which indicate the seriousness of an incident.

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Jet plane runway airport

A plane takes off from an airport runway. (iStock / iStock)

Based on the details provided by the agency, the January 13 incident in New York will likely fall into one of the more severe categories used by the FAA to evaluate runway incursions.

What are lane incursions?

Runway incursions are incidents at airports that occur when aircraft, vehicles or persons are incorrectly present in the protected area designated for landing and taking off aircraft. They are distinct from surface incidents, which involve an unauthorized movement or occurrence in a designated area that could affect flight safety.

The FAA’s four categories of runway incursions pose varying degrees of danger, but fall short of an actual accident:

  • Category A – the most serious type of incursion – is a serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided.
  • Category B incidents occur when separation decreases and there is significant potential for a collision that may cause a time-critical corrective or evasive response to avoid a collision.
  • Category C incidents are characterized by having sufficient time and/or distance to avoid a collision.
  • Category D incidents involve the incorrect presence of an aircraft, person or vehicle in a protected designated landing and take-off area without immediate safety consequences.

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american airlines

American Airlines passenger jets prepare to take off near a terminal at Boston Logan International Airport in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (AP Images)

To help air traffic controllers avoid incursions on Category A and B runways, the FAA has developed the Airport Surface Detection System—Model X (ASDE-X), which is a surveillance radar that tracks surface movement of aircraft and vehicles on airport premises that alert controllers to possible incursions or other incidents.

As of October 31, 2022, the ASDE-X radar had been deployed at 35 major airports across the country, including New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, where Friday’s incident took place.

Runway incursions may be caused by operational incidents due to the action of an air traffic controller that results in less than minimum separation between aircraft; pilot deviations such as crossing a runway without authorization; and entry of pedestrians or vehicles into airport movement areas without authorization from air traffic control.

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Several Delta Air Lines planes on a runway

Delta Air Lines planes are seen at John F. Kennedy International Airport over the 4th of July weekend in Queens, New York, USA on July 2, 2022. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo/Reuters Photos)

The number of runway incursions at US airports increased from 1,574 in fiscal 2021 to 1,732 in fiscal 2022, according to FAA data. The most common cause of incursions is pilot diversion, which was the cause of 1,084 incursions in fiscal 2022, followed by vehicle and pedestrian diversion, which was the cause of 313 incursions. As of Jan. 11, the FAA has reported 27 runway incursions this month.

Collisions between planes can have catastrophic consequences, and such a scenario resulted in the deadliest accident in aviation history in 1977 on the Spanish island of Tenerife. Overcrowding at the airport stemming from the closure of another airport in the Canary Islands, combined with poor visibility due to dense fog, resulted in a disaster when a miscommunication between air traffic controllers and pilots resulted in a Boeing 747 taxiing onto a runway that was being used by another for takeoff. The tragic collision and fire resulted in 583 deaths and all 61 survivors were injured.

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Airlines respond to runway incident

The two airlines involved in the aborted takeoff and near-miss in New York told FOX Business that they prioritize the safety of their passengers and crew and are assisting federal agencies with their investigations.

“The safety of our customers and crew is always Delta’s number one priority. Delta will work with and assist aviation authorities in a full review of Flight 1943 on Jan. 13 in connection with a successful aborted takeoff procedure in New York -JFK,” a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines told FOX Business. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay of their travels.”

An American Airlines spokesperson told FOX Business, “The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. We are conducting a full internal review and cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigation.”

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