Air Transport World

Runway incursion 'call to action'.(SAFETY)

IT WAS 1 P.M. ON A TYPICAL SUMMER afternoon at Los Angeles International. WestJet Flight 900, a 737NG from Calgary that had just landed, held between parallel Runways 24R and 24L as directed by the LAX tower. "Without authorization, the WestJet crew changed radio frequencies and contacted ground control," according to the US National Transportation Safety Board. The ground controller "assumed" that the 737NG had been "cleared to cross Runway 24L and provided instructions for the flight to taxi to its gate," NTSB said. But the tower controller "expected the flight to hold" and cleared a Northwest Airlines A320 to take off from 24L.


The A320 accelerated to 150 mph as it neared takeoff. "According to the FAA, the WestJet airplane crossed the hold short line for Runway 24L and the two aircraft came within 37 ft. as the Northwest flight crossed directly in front of the WestJet flight during its takeoff roll," NTSB said.

How narrowly was a potentially catastrophic accident at one of the world's busiest airports avoided? Although the US has not experienced a fatal runway incursion involving a commercial air transport aircraft in more than a decade, a number of high-profile incidents over the past few years have gotten the attention of authorities.

"We can't wait for something to happen," FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell says. "One thing will not solve the issue and we need to tackle this from as many angles as possible."

'Call to Action' FAA confirmed that a Delta Air Lines 757 arriving on July 11 at Fort Lauderdale "touched down and had to take off again to avoid colliding" with a United Airlines A320 that was taxiing to a runway and "had missed a turn." It said that on July 5, a DL aircraft landing at New York LaGuardia "narrowly missed" a Delta Connection aircraft that was "mistakenly cleared to taxi across the runway at the same time."

Alarmed by what it called "recent close calls at some of our nation's busiest airports," the agency held a "call to action" meeting in August in Washington and followed up with extensive runway safety meetings this fall with various stakeholders at each of 20 airports, including LAX, that it determined caused the "greatest concern" regarding potential incursions. …

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