The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that it has opened an urgent investigation after a Boeing 777 operated by American Airlines entered an active runway in front of a Delta Air Lines 737 while the smaller jet was speeding along with the runway for takeoff.
The apparent near-miss occurred at New York JFK on Friday evening when American Airlines flight AA106 was preparing to depart for London Heathrow. At the same time, Delta Air Lines flight DL1943 bound for Santo Domingo, had already been cleared for takeoff.
The incident, first uncovered by aviation insider JonNYC on Twitter, appears to have unfolded when the pilots of the American Airlines aircraft entered the wrong runway in preparation for takeoff.
Data provided by Flight Radar 24 shows the 21-year-old American Airlines jet apparently entering runway 4L at the same that the Delta Jet was beginning its takeoff roll from slightly further down the runway.
After a few moments of acceleration, the Delta aircraft suddenly comes to a complete halt while the American Airlines moves from the active runway.
Air traffic control recordings appear to show the level of worry as the JFK tower reacts to prevent what could have been a catastrophe.
“Shit! Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance,” the controller shouts. After the aircraft stops in time, the controller continued: “Alright, whew, Delta 1943. Delta 1943 are you able to taxi, or do you need a couple of minutes to run checks?”
Brian Healy, a passenger onboard the Delta jet, said passengers gasped as they were “thrust forward” when the pilots quickly activated the brakes to bring the plane to an emergency stop.
“The pilot came on after a couple of agonizing minutes to report ATC had ordered the takeoff to abort. Took an hour to taxi back to the gate,” Healy continued.
The air traffic control recordings suggest that the American Airlines pilots thought aircraft were departing from a different runway.
In a statement, the FAA says it is investigating the incident after a preliminary analysis showed that the Delta Jet managed to stop with just 1,000 feet between it and the American Airlines Boeing 777.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.