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Video: Two planes nearly collide at Austin airport

Some of about 60-737 MAX airplanes share a parking lot between East Marginal Way South and the Duwamish Waterway across the street from Boeing Field in Seattle on February 20, 2020. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS)
February 17, 2023

Two airplanes nearly collided at a Texas airport when a FedEx cargo plane had to abruptly end its landing on the same runway where a Southwest Airlines flight was set to depart.

The close call occurred at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Feb. 4 after an air traffic controller cleared a Boeing 737 Southwest Airlines flight to depart after another flight was cleared to land on the same runway.

“Shortly before the FedEx aircraft was due to land, the controller cleared Southwest Flight 708 to depart from the same runway,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. “The pilot of the FedEx airplane discontinued the landing and initiated a climb out.”

A video capturing the FedEx cargo plane’s descent toward the runway where the Southwest Airlines flight was prepared to depart was shared on social media. The startling footage quickly turned viral, with over 3.1 million views on Twitter alone.

“If this doesn’t make you tense up and cringe nothing will. The people on that SouthWest flight have no clue how close to death they came,” the tweet alongside the video read. “Insane.”

Flighttrader24 also tracked the incident, noting the aircraft were dangerously close to one another before the FedEx cargo plane changed course.

“At the closest point horizontally, the aircraft were less than 1000 feet apart, but we do not have same-time data points in order to calculate an exact figure,” it noted.

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A FedEx spokesperson told Flighttrader24 that the cargo flight safely landed 12 minutes later after changing course to avoid the Southwest plane on the runway.

Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FAA are investigating the incident.

“I’m very proud of the FedEx flight crew and that pilot,” Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the NTSB, told CNN. “They saved, in my view, 128 people from a potential catastrophe.”

“It was very close, and we believe less than 100 feet,” she added.

The incident follows a similar near-collision last month at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. An American Airlines plane crossed an active runway and forced a Delta Air Lines passenger plane to abort its takeoff on the same runway.

“(Expletive)! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” an air controller said in the audio of Air Traffic Control communications when the other plane was spotted, according to KTLA-TV.

The Delta plan came within 1,000 feet of the American Airlines plan, according to reports.