Air traffic control audio captures near miss between FedEx and Southwest planes
A dramatic sound seemed to capture the pilot of a FedEx cargo plane that spectacularly nearly collided with a Southwest Airlines flight last week in Texas telling the other plane to abort takeoff.
FedEx Flight 1432 from Memphis was cleared to land Runway 18 left of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport early Saturday – but seconds later Southwest Flight 708 also alerted control air traffic that he was “ready” for a departure before the runway, as is the custom. , according to a LiveATC.net recording.
“Fly heading 170, runway 18 left, cleared for takeoff. Three mile traffic on final is a heavy 767,” the controller told flight 708, which was bound for Cancun, Mexico.
The term “heavy” refers to aircraft above a certain weight to alert pilots to wake turbulence.
“Copy the traffic”, replies the pilot, acknowledging receipt of the take-off clearance.
Arriving and departing flights generally receive simultaneous landing and take-off clearances as long as there is sufficient separation between the two.
“Tower, confirm that FedEx 1432 heavy is cleared to land on 18 left,” the cargo pilot said, apparently aware that the other plane was still on the runway.
“It is affirmative. Runway 18 left, you are cleared to land. Traffic leaving before you arrive is a 737,” the controller replies.
Moments later, he seemed to realize that the southwestern flight was slow to move.
“Southwest 708, confirm on a roll,” he said.
“It’s rolling now,” replies the pilot.
The recording then captures what appears to be the FedEx pilot saying, “Southwest, give up.” FedEx is on the go. The identity of the person speaking could not immediately be confirmed.
The controller orders the Southwest pilot to “turn right when he can”, apparently under the impression that he has aborted the takeoff – but the pilot says “negative” and proceeds to take off.
The plane had presumably reached the so-called V1 “commit to fly” speed and could not safely abort.
The FedEx plane aborted its landing and “initiated a climb” or overshoot, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The pilot of the FedEx aircraft aborted the landing and began a climb,” the FAA said in a statement. “The Southwest flight departed safely.”
Flight Radar data shows that the FedEx plane flew over the southwest plane at an altitude of 75 feet while the southwest plane was 4 feet above the ground, possibly placing them within 71 feet of each other.
“FedEx 1432, climb and hold 3000. When you can, you can turn left heading 080,” the controller says. “Southwest 708, you can turn left heading 170.”
An animated video posted by FlightRadar24 shows the FedEx aircraft approaching and passing directly over the southwest flight before abruptly departing from the runway.
After bringing the FedEx flight back to the airport for a safe landing, the controller tells the pilot, “We apologize. We appreciate your professionalism.
The National Transportation Safety Board described the incident as a “possible runway incursion and overflight involving Southwest Airlines and FedEx aircraft.”
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the near miss.
The Post has contacted Southwest for comment.
A similar situation occurred at JFK airport in New York last month when an American Airlines aircraft crossed the runway from an adjacent taxiway just as a Delta Air Lines plane was about to take off, forcing the Delta pilot to slam the brakes.