NEW YORK (AP) – Officials are investigating a close connection between a plane crossing a runway and another preparing to take off at a New York airport Friday night.
“(Expletive)! Delta 1943, cancel clearance for takeoff! Delta 1943, cancel clearance for takeoff!” said an air traffic controller in an audio recording of air traffic control communications, upon noticing that the other aircraft, operated by American Airlines, was crossing ahead of him. The Recording was made by LiveATC, a website that monitors and publishes flight communications.
The departing Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 plane then came to a safe stop on the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport around 8:45 p.m. as the other cruised ahead, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Brian Heale, a passenger on the Delta flight, said he initially thought the abrupt stop was a mechanical problem.
“There was this sudden lurch of the plane and everyone kind of got pushed forward from the hip,” he recalled. “There was an audible reaction as the brakes applied, like a gasp. And then there was absolute silence for a few seconds.”
Heale, who was traveling to the Dominican Republic with his husband for their winter vacation, said it wasn’t until he scrolled Twitter the next day that he realized how serious what could have happened on that runway was.
“The pilot made the call to share information on a need-to-know basis only, and that was absolutely the right call because it would have been a mess,” he said.
John Cox, a retired pilot and professor of flight safety at the University of Southern California, said he thinks the air traffic controller made “a good call to deny the takeoff.”
He said the rejected takeoff safety maneuver, in which pilots stop the plane and abort takeoff, was one they were “very, very familiar with.”
“Pilots practice rejected starts almost every time they get to the simulator,” he said.
The Delta plane stopped about 1,000 feet (about 0.3 kilometers) from where the American Airlines plane had crossed from a neighboring runway, according to the FAA statement.
The plane returned to the gate, where the 145 passengers departed and were given overnight accommodation, a Delta spokesman said. The flight to Santa Domingo Airport in the Dominican Republic took off on Saturday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday it would investigate.
The National Transportation Safety Board also said it would look into the case.
“They go back and listen to every transmission between the American jet and air traffic control to see who got what wrong,” Cox said.
“Delta will be working with aviation authorities to assist with a full review of Flight 1943 on January 13 for a successful aborted takeoff at New York-JFK. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay in their travels,” a Delta spokesman said in a statement.
American Airlines declined to comment on the incident and said it would refer any questions to the FAA.