A Southwest Airlines flight had a 173-foot near miss with a rescue truck crossing the runway at Baltimore airport without permission, following a spate of alarming airport accidents across the country.
The harrowing incident took place at Baltimore/Washington International Airport on January 12, but came to attention this week DC News Now published audio of air traffic controllers frantically telling the vehicle to stop.
According to a FAA report in the incident, an airport rescue and firefighting vehicle (ARFF) was told by the tower to briefly stay on the runway, but read back incorrect instructions, which were not caught by the ground controllers.
“ARFF 439 you would have short runway 15R!” you hear one of the controllers say in the recently released air traffic control recordings.
The Southwest Boeing 737, ready for takeoff, pulled down the runway around 1:50 p.m., narrowly missing the rescue truck, which crossed the runway ahead of the plane. No injuries were reported in the near miss.
A Southwest Airlines flight had a 173-foot near miss on Jan. 12 with a rescue truck crossing the runway at the Baltimore airport without permission.
A Southwest Airlines flight had a near miss with a rescue truck crossing the runway at Baltimore airport without permission (file photo)
The FAA analysis of the incident found that the “closest estimated horizontal distance” between the plane and the truck was only 53 meters, less than half the size of a football field.
The FAA categorized the near miss as a Category B incident, defined as an incident with a “significant probability of collision.”
A BWI spokesperson said the airport had fully cooperated and shared information with the FAA about the incident.
“A firefighter from the BWI Marshall Airport Fire and Rescue Department and a medical vehicle crossed a runway without air traffic control clearance,” the statement said.
Based on assessment of the incident, new procedures were immediately implemented to help ensure safety and prevent a similar incident in the future. Safety and security remain the top priorities for BWI Marshall Airport,” the spokesperson added.
Southwest said in a statement that the crew followed air traffic control’s directions “at all times” and did so in the Baltimore incident.
The Baltimore incident came to light after the FAA held an emergency summit last week in McLean, Virginia, to address a string of recent safety incidents and near misses.
“There is no question that aviation is amazingly safe, but vigilance can never take a day off,” Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement after the summit.
“We have to ask ourselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions, even if we are sure that the system is right.”
An airport rescue and firefighting vehicle (ARFF) was told by the tower to briefly stay on the runway, but read back incorrect instructions, which were not caught by the ground controllers
The Baltimore incident came to light after the FAA held an emergency summit last week in McLean, Virginia to address a series of recent safety incidents (file photo)
On Saturday there was another harrowing incident plane nearly collided with a helicopter at a Southern California airport.
FAA officials said a Southwest flight was approaching a runway at Hollywood Burbank Airport around 9:50 a.m. Saturday when an air traffic controller spotted a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter on the same runway.
According to a statement from the FAA, the helicopter was practicing touch-and-go landings. After noticing the problem, the controller told the Boeing 737 to turn around.
No one was injured and the matter is currently being investigated by the FAA.
The Boeing 737 was Southwest Flight N551WN from Phoenix, which had to turn around and attempt another landing after the near crash ended the first landing attempt.
In an interview with NBC Nightly News last week, Nolen blamed a spate of near-misses on the runway on “pressure in the system” amid a post-pandemic surge in air travel.
Nolen also revealed that on March 7, there had been another near miss between two jets ready for takeoff at Ronald Reagan Airport, bringing the total to seven this year.
Compared to an average of between four and 10 “serious runway events” per year over the past decade, Nolen admitted that recent months have seen more dangerous incidents “than you might expect.”
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen convened an emergency summit last week to address a series of alarming security incidents
On Saturday, there was another harrowing incident in which a plane nearly collided with a helicopter at Burbank Airport in Southern California
“We’re coming off the back end of this pandemic,” he told NBC Nightly News. “And… really, we’re seeing a pent-up demand for flying. Flying has come back with a vengeance, so to speak.’
Nolen said “aggressive” hiring efforts could not have kept pace with the increased number of flights which has created “some pressure in the system”.
As airlines see record profits, Nolen said industry leaders should commit to schedules that “fit their capabilities and market demands.”
However, he insisted that flying remains “very safe,” noting that there had been no serious fatal incident since 2009 when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed en route to Buffalo, NY, killing all 49 passengers and crew. came.
FAA data shows that overall there have been fewer near misses in the past six months than in the same periods prior.
Despite the safety record, many passengers traveling on US airlines are shocked by the number of planes grounded or diverted due to runway mishaps.
In the latest shock, on March 7, Republic Airlines Flight 4736 nearly collided with United Airlines Flight 2003 after it crossed a runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport without clearance.
Clearance had been given to cross another runway, but the pilot took a wrong turn.
The United flight had been cleared to take off, but a lucky air traffic controller noticed Republic’s mishap just in time and canceled the first’s takeoff.
“United 2003 cancels takeoff clearance,” the controller said. “Abort start, abort United 2003 start.”
It comes after an American Airlines flight nearly slammed into a Delta plane at JFK, and a landing FedEx cargo plane narrowly avoided a Southwest plane preparing to take off.