Panic-stricken passengers on a flight involved in a near-miss collision at JFK Airport over the weekend have described how they screamed and gasped as they became “split seconds” away from crashing into another aircraft.
Delta Air Lines passenger Brian Healy told NBC News that some travelers were overcome by “panic” as their plane nearly collided with an American Airlines aircraft crossing the runway on Friday.
“We’re talking split seconds here, but the initial cognition was this is not going to end well,” Delta customer Brian Healy told NBC News, adding that some travelers were overcome by “panic.”
The near-miss is now the subject of separate investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Around 8:45 p.m., Delta Flight 1943 was preparing for takeoff when American Airlines Flight 106 was spotted crossing onto the Delta plane’s runway.
″F—! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” an air controller said in an audio recording of Air Traffic Control (ATC) communications when he noticed the American Airlines flight blocking the Delta plane’s path. The recording was made by LiveATC, a website that monitors and posts flight communications.
Delta’s pilots hit the brakes in the nick of time to avoid a crash, with the Boeing 737 plane traveling at 115mph stopping just 1,000 feet away from the other aircraft that had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, according to a statement from the FAA.
Healey, who was flying with his husband to the Dominican Republican for a winter getaway, said at first he thought the sudden stop was a mechanical issue.
“There was this abrupt jerk of the plane, and everyone was sort of thrust forward from the waist,” he recalled. “There was an audible reaction when the brakes happened, like a gasp. And then there was a total silence for a couple of seconds.”
In a separate interview with Business Insider, the passenger revealed that he heard “a few screams” and felt a surge of adrenaline as the aircraft stowed.
“As the plane came to a stop, I realized we’d be OK,” he added.
Healey said it wasn’t until he was scrolling on Twitter the next day that he realized the gravity of what could have happened on that runway.
“The pilot made the call to only share information on a need-to-know basis, and that was absolutely the right call, because it would’ve been pandemonium,” he said.
Healey canceled his flight in the wake of the near-miss and received a full refund from the carrier, he said.
Meanwhile, an audio recording of ATC communications revealed that the American Airlines pilot asked air traffic control to clarify if his flight had been cleared for takeoff.
“I guess we’ll listen to the tapes, but you were supposed to depart (runway) 4L. You’re currently holding short of runway 31L,” an air traffic controller replied.
The American Airlines flight to the UK took off from JFK as scheduled and landed in London on time.
The Delta plane returned to the gate, where the 145 passengers deplaned and were provided hotel rooms for the night, a spokesperson for the carrier said. The flight to Santo Domingo Airport in the Dominican Republic took off Saturday morning.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always Delta’s No. 1 priority,” the airline rep said. “Delta will work with and assist aviation authorities on a full review of flight 1943 on Jan. 13 regarding a successful aborted takeoff procedure at New York-JFK. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay of their travels.”
American Airlines declined to comment on the incident and referred all questions to the FAA.
John Cox, a retired pilot and professor of aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said he thought the controller “made a good call to reject the takeoff.”
He said the rejected takeoff safety maneuver, which is when pilots stop the aircraft and discontinue the takeoff, is one they are “very, very familiar with.”
“Pilots practice rejected takeoff almost every time they get to the simulator,” he said.
Cox added that federal aviation investigators will “go back and listen to every transmission between the American jet and air traffic control to see who misunderstood what.”
With Post wires
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