Ambulance drove across path of Southwest jet at Baltimore airport
A Southwest Airlines flight had a 173-foot near-miss with an ambulance truck that crossed the runway without authorization at Baltimore’s airport, following a spate of alarming airport mishaps across the country.
The harrowing incident occurred on January 12 at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, but came to attention this week when DC News Now published audio of air controllers frantically telling the vehicle to stop.
According to an FAA report on the incident, an airport rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) vehicle was told by the tower to hold short at the runway, but read back incorrect instructions, which were not caught by the ground controllers.
‘ARFF 439 you were supposed to hold short runway 15R!’ one of the controllers is heard saying in the newly released air traffic control recordings.
The Southwest Boeing 737, which had been cleared for takeoff, proceeded down the runway at about 1.50pm and narrowly missed the rescue truck, which crossed the runway in front of the plane. There were no injuries in the near-miss.
A Southwest Airlines flight had a 173-foot near-miss with a rescue truck that crossed the runway without authorization at Baltimore’s airport on January 12
A Southwest Airlines flight had a near-miss with a rescue truck that crossed the runway without authorization at Baltimore’s airport (file photo)
The FAA analysis of the incident found that the ‘closest estimated horizontal separation’ between the plane and the truck was a mere 173 feet, less than half the length of a football field.
The FAA categorized the near-miss as a Category B incident, defined as an incident with ‘significant potential for collision.’
A spokesman for BWI said the airport had fully cooperated and shared information with the FAA regarding the incident.
‘A BWI Marshall Airport Fire and Rescue Department firefighter and medic vehicle crossed a runway without air traffic control authorization,’ the statement said.
‘Based on review of the incident, new procedures were immediately implemented to help ensure safety and to prevent a similar incident in the future. Safety and security remain the highest priorities for BWI Marshall Airport,’ the spokesman added.
Southwest said in a statement that its crews follow air traffic control directions ‘at all times’ and did so in the Baltimore incident.
The incident in Baltimore came to light after the FAA last week held an emergency summit in McLean, Virginia to address a string of recent safety incidents and near-misses.
‘There is no question that aviation is amazingly safe, but vigilance can never take the day off,’ Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement following the summit.
‘We must ask ourselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions, even when we are confident that the system is sound.’
An airport rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) vehicle was told by the tower to hold short at the runway, but read back incorrect instructions, which were not caught by the ground controllers
The incident in Baltimore came to light after the FAA last week held an emergency summit in McLean, Virginia to address a string of recent safety incidents (file photo)
On Saturday, another harrowing incident saw a plane almost collide with a helicopter at a Southern California airport.
FAA officials said a Southwest flight was approaching a runway at the Hollywood Burbank Airport Saturday around 9.50am when an air traffic controller noticed a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter on the same runway.
According to an FAA statement, the helicopter had been practicing touch-and-go landings. After noticing the issue, the controller told the Boeing 737 to wrap around.
No one was injured and the matter is under investigation by the FAA at this time.
The Boeing 737 was Southwest flight N551WN from Phoenix, which had to turn around and attempt another landing after the near-crash ended the first landing attempt.
In an interview with NBC Nightly News last week, Nolen blamed a spate of runway near collisions on ‘pressures in the system’ amid a post-pandemic surge in air travel.
Nolen also revealed that there had been another near miss between two jets cleared for takeoff at Ronald Reagan airport on March 7, bringing the total number this year to seven.
Compared to an average of between four and ten ‘serious runway events’ a year over the last decade, Nolen admitted that recent months have produced more dangerous incidents ‘than you’d expect to see.’
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen called an emergency summit last week to address a string of alarming safety mishaps
On Saturday, another harrowing incident saw a plane almost collide with a helicopter at the Burbank Airport in Southern California
‘We’re coming out of the backside of this pandemic,’ he told NBC Nightly News. ‘And … truly we’re seeing pent up demand for flying. Flying has come back with a vengeance, so to speak.’
Nolen said that ‘aggressive’ hiring efforts had been unable to keep pace with the increased numbers of flights which have created ‘some pressures in the system.’
As airlines see record profits, Nolen said industry chiefs needed to commit to schedules that ‘match their capability and demands of the market.’
However, he insisted that flying remains ‘very safe’ as he noted there had not been a seriously fatal incident since 2009 when Colgan Air Flight 3407 went down en route to Buffalo, NY, killing all 49 passengers and crew.
FAA data show there have been fewer overall near-miss incidents over the past six months than in the same periods prior.
Despite the safety record, many passengers traveling on US airlines have been shocked by the number of planes grounded or diverted over runway mishaps.
In the latest shock, on March 7, Republic Airlines flight 4736 nearly collided with United Airlines Flight 2003 after it crossed a runway without clearance at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
It had been cleared to cross another runway, but the pilot took a wrong turn.
The United flight had been cleared for takeoff, but one lucky air traffic controller noticed Republic’s mishap just in time and canceled the former’s takeoff.
‘United 2003 cancel takeoff clearance,’ the controller said. ‘Aborting takeoff, aborting takeoff United 2003.’
It comes after an American Airlines flight nearly slammed into a Delta plane at JFK, and a landing FedEx cargo plane narrowly avoided a Southwest plane preparing to takeoff.
Source of data and images: dailymail