NTSB Says 2 Jets Collided at Houston Airport

Nobody was injured in Tuesday incident
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2023 7:21 AM CDT
NTSB Says 2 Jets Collided at Houston Airport
People walk in William P. Hobby Airport, Aug. 31, 2017, in Houston.   (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP, file)

Hours before Michael Whitaker was confirmed by the Senate as the new Federal Aviation Administration chief on Tuesday, two private jets collided at a Houston airport. The FAA says a Hawker 850XP took off without permission at William Hobby Airport, colliding with a Cessna Citation coming in to land on an intersecting runway, the Washington Post reports. There were no injuries among the five people on the Cessna and the three on the Hawker, the FAA says. Airport operations were suspended for around three hours.

In a recording post on LiveATC.net, the Hawker pilot can be heard saying, "We just had a midair," the New York Times reports. After a person in the control tower says, "Say what?" the Hawker pilot says, "You guys cleared somebody to take off or land, and we hit them on a departure." The Hawker circled back to land at the airport. The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that air traffic controllers had told the Hawker to line up on the runway to wait for takeoff. "It was a wing-to-rudder-type contact," aviation expert Oliver Brown tells KHOU11.

"This is a very fortunate outcome," Brown says. "This is the most serious infraction that pilots can be involved in." NTSB spokesperson Peter Knudson said it's not clear whether the Hawker pilot had failed to hear the instruction to wait, the AP reports. "We haven't verified that, that's one thing we're very interested in," he said. The incident follows a long string of close calls at airports nationwide. Whitaker, who is filling a role at the FAA that had been vacant for almost 19 months, said during a confirmation hearing that it is "critical" to end close calls, per the Times. (More airport stories.)

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