Planes came dangerously close in Texas near-miss
A FedEx Corp. widebody cargo jet came within several hundred feet of colliding with a Southwest Airlines Co. plane in Austin, Texas, early Saturday and the two planes remained in close proximity for at least 30 seconds, flight data show.
The FedEx Boeing Co. 767-300, which had been cleared to land on the same Austin-Bergstrom International Airport runway where the Southwest 737-700 was taking off in heavy fog, aborted its touchdown and began climbing above the smaller plane. The details, gleaned from a Bloomberg review of tracking data from Flightradar24, offer new insight into the seriousness of Saturday’s incident, which didn’t result in any injuries.
At one point, the two planes were separated by less than 25 feet laterally as the FedEx jet flew above the Southwest aircraft, which had reached a speed of about 150 miles per hour while it accelerated for takeoff, according to the data. Seconds later, as the Southwest plane lifted off, the two were less than 50 feet apart laterally and about 625 feet apart in height.
“No question the airplanes were much too close,” said John Cox, a former airline pilot who is now a safety consultant. “It’s a very rare event to have these airliners so close.”
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board announced on Saturday it was investigating the incident, which occurred at about 6:40 a.m. local time. It’s the second serious runway near-collision in recent weeks. The Federal Aviation Administration is also reviewing the two incidents.
It’s difficult at this early stage in the investigation to determine the precise risk of the two planes colliding, Cox said. He praised the FedEx pilots for aborting their landing seconds before touchdown, apparently realizing that the other jet was on the runway.