At Reagan Airport, a Near Disaster on Runway

Southwest plane nearly crossed runway in front of departing JetBlue plane Thursday in Virginia
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2024 7:20 AM CDT

Two planes nearly collided at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday, and might have done so if an air traffic controller hadn't yelled "Stop!" Around 7:40am, an air traffic controller instructed Southwest Flight 2937 to cross runway 4 on its way to runway 1. It was instructed to allow an American Airlines flight to pass in front before turning in the direction of runway 4, and did so. Around the same time, another air traffic controller cleared JetBlue Flight 1554 for takeoff on runway 4. "Cleared for takeoff, runway 4, JetBlue 1554," the pilot replied, per WTOP. The plane began moving down the runway just as the Southwest plane approached the runway's edge.

As an air traffic controller directed another plane, a voice could be overheard on the recording saying, "Tell Southwest to stop," according to audio shared on YouTube. A frantic voice commanded the JetBlue plane to stop, then yelled, "Southwest, stop! Southwest 2937, stop!" "We stop. We were cleared to cross runway 4," the Southwest pilot replied. WTOP reports the two planes came within 400 feet of each other. The Southwest plane had crossed the taxiway's "hold short line," the line planes are expected to remain behind so as to not interfere with the runway.

"There was no margin left," as John Nance, a retired airline captain and aviation safety analyst, tells WTOP. "If there had been a failure to communicate to JetBlue and they were on a high-speed portion of their take off, they would not have been able to swerve." The JetBlue plane had thankfully only reached 39mph, WTOP reports. The FAA said it would investigate the incident in which "an air traffic controller instructed Southwest Airlines Flight 2937 to cross Runway 4 ... while JetBlue Flight 1554 was starting its takeoff roll on the same runway." There were 1,756 runway incursions in the US in fiscal year 2023 out of 54.4 million takeoffs and landings, with about 20% attributed to air traffic controller action or inaction, reports NBC Washington. (More airplane mishap stories.)

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