View Full Version : Near-Collision at JFK

07-22-2005, 03:08 PM

Two jets nearly crash at Kennedy


Federal Aviation officials are investigating a harrowing incident in which two planes - including a passenger jet - nearly collided at Kennedy Airport two weeks ago.

An Airborne Express DC-8 cargo plane averted the crash only by taking off early, clearing the airliner on the runway by a mere 75 feet, officials said.

The Israir Boeing 767, preparing to take off for Tel Aviv with an unknown number of passengers aboard, had improperly crossed onto the cargo plane's runway about 2 a.m. July 6, a rainy and foggy night, officials said.

A ground radar warning system was washed out by the downpour and failed to sound an alert, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said yesterday.

The cargo plane's first officer spotted the 767 on the runway, but by then the Airborne Express aircraft was barreling along at 115 mph and committed to taking off. The DC-8 was able to lift off early, just clearing the 767.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the close call.

Originally published on July 22, 2005

07-22-2005, 03:21 PM
I can't imagine being a passenger on the Israir jet and looking out the window to see a DC-8 miss you by 75 freakin' feet. Wow.

07-22-2005, 06:25 PM
From the New York Times:

July 21, 2005

Air Safety Officials Reveal a Near Collision at Kennedy Airport This Month


WASHINGTON, July 20 - A fully fueled wide-body jet carrying an unknown number of passengers apparently blundered onto a runway at Kennedy International Airport and into the path of a cargo plane accelerating for takeoff two weeks ago, federal safety officials said on Wednesday. They said that the crew of the cargo plane narrowly prevented a collision by taking off early.

Air traffic controllers were alerted to the near collision, which occurred in fog and rain shortly before 2 a.m. on July 6, when a crew member in the cargo plane shouted into an open microphone, "Somebody's on the runway!" according to an official of the controllers' union.

The official, Barrett R. Byrnes, said that the passenger plane, flown by Israir, an Israeli carrier that began service to the United States in March, had crossed over a line of amber and red lights embedded in the concrete. The lights are meant to warn pilots that they are crossing an active runway.

Mr. Byrnes, of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at the Kennedy tower, said that the 767 entered the runway just over halfway along its length, at a spot where planes rolling down the runway typically are not yet airborne and may just be lifting their nose wheels.

He estimated that the cargo plane had been traveling at 100 knots, or about 115 miles per hour, when its pilot managed to get it into the air, clearing the 767 by less than 100 feet.

"Through the grace of God, the pilot was able to see him and had enough power to actually go on top of him," Mr. Byrnes said.

"A hundred feet is incredibly close," said Richard F. Healing, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. "It's a very, very dangerous situation."

It was not clear how many people were aboard the 767; it can be configured to carry nearly 300. The cargo plane, a DC-8 flown by Airborne Express, carries a crew of at least three.

The Israir plane had pushed back from Kennedy's international terminal and was taxiing to Runway 22 Right, but was supposed to make a left turn before reaching the runway to go to the takeoff end. Instead, it went straight, according to a preliminary report by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The episode was one of several recent occurrences that safety officials say point to a continuing hazard at airports. On June 9, at Logan International Airport in Boston, an Airbus A330 flown by Aer Lingus came within about 170 feet of a Boeing 737 flown by US Airways.

The planes were taking off on intersecting runways, and the co-pilot of the US Airways plane avoided disaster by keeping the nose down and delaying takeoff, according to investigators.

Almost a year ago, on Aug. 19, a Boeing 747 was cleared to land on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport at the same time that a Boeing 737 was cleared to take off. The pilot of the 747, flown by Asiana, spotted the 737, a smaller plane flown by Southwest, as it swung into position for takeoff. The Asiana crew turned away, with about two seconds to spare, according to investigators. In February 1991, at that same runway, a USAir Boeing 737 landed on top of a SkyWest commuter jet, killing 34 people.

The safety board has listed actions to stop runway violations and ground collisions as among its "most wanted" safety improvements since it began ranking such recommendations in 1990. Although the F.A.A. has increased pilot training and improved equipment at many airports over the past several years , the board characterizes the F.A.A.'s response as "unacceptable."

In describing the close call at Kennedy and the two earlier ones, Mr. Healing, the safety board member, said they were "warnings that should get a lot of attention to this potential accident."

Messages left on Wednesday afternoon with the United States offices of DHL, a German company that bought Airborne Express about two years ago, were not returned. An American spokesman for Israir, Stuart Katz, said he had not heard of the close call and could get no details from the airline in Israel because of the time difference.

Israir, founded in 1996, lists four weekly departures from New York to Tel Aviv. The safety board has asked for radar tapes, audio tapes of the cockpit-to-tower communications and other data from the F.A.A.

According to Mr. Byrnes, the union official, neither plane was visible from the tower because of fog and rain. They were probably visible on radar, he said, but at that hour, with just two people on duty, controllers scan the radar and other sources of information rather than watching it steadily. "You can't really baby-sit that much," he said, because controllers are busy issuing takeoff and landing clearances, answering the phone and giving taxiing instructions.

To reduce the possibility that airplanes miss a turn and end up on the active runway, he said, controllers at Kennedy often direct pilots to a taxiway that is farther from the runway. But that taxiway has been closed by the Port Authority for maintenance, he said, so the Israir jet was directed to the closer one.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company