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Close call at Austin Airport when a FedEx 767 attempted to land while a Southwest 737 was taking off

The Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board are investigating an aborted landing in Austin, Texas, on Saturday morning by a FedEx cargo plane that had been set to land on a runway on which a Southwest Airlines jet was also cleared to depart from, the agencies said. ( More...

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Billy Koskie 32
ATC clearing an aircraft for takeoff when another plane is on a Category 3 approach on the same runway on 3 mile final and anticipating/hoping the SWA aircraft doesn't delay takeoff is asking for trouble. The Fedex pilot even asked ATC if they were still cleared to land after hearing ATC clear SWA for takeoff. Fedex making the go around call saved a lot of lives. Vertical separation was estimated at something around 125 feet. NTSB is going to have a field day with ATC. The Blancolirio channel on YouTube does an excellent job explaining the situation.
Thomas Raveney 22
Worst article title ever. If you listen to the audio, it's seems most likely that the controller placed the departing and arriving planes to closely between operations. It also seems like the southwest pilot may not have given the necessary consideration to the landing plane regardless of the controllers clearance. The FedEx plane did indicate 3 miles final in his radio calls, and in pour weather, that may have been enough for the SWA pilot to delay. There also appears to be evidence that the SWA pilot was slow to roll once on the runway. What does seem apparent, the FedEx pilot was not at fault, based on timing and radio communication, which is the opposite of the articles title.
boughbw 3
Don't call this the "worst article title ever." It only encourages them to aim lower.
Michael Foster 43
After hearing the real time audio, I think the controller AND the SWA should share the blame. The SWA pilot knew the Heavy FedEx was on 3 mile final. THREE MILE FINAL.
Let's see. B767 landing speed is 135 knots or 155 miles per hour.
Time to cover 3 miles is 70 seconds.
As a pilot of any aircraft, would you pull onto the runway, even if you had a clearance??
By the time the SWA reported his readiness for takeoff, the controller to respond and clear him onto the runway, the pilot to acknowledge the takeoff clearance took probably 15 of those 70 seconds.
The tower should have never given the SWA the clearance, the SWA should have rejected it.

jacqwayne 4
Blaming SWA is a stretch. If the SWA pilot had a clear understanding of picture, as all of the Monday morning quarterbacks have, then yes, he should have questioned the clearance to "Take Off". To me, it was clearly a screwup by the controller. Of course, I haven't listened to the audio tapes, but I will! So maybe I should have waited to post this comment.
tsberry901 1
I agree with your assessment and would like to add one more thing. With low visibility procedures at an airport, it was reckless for the controller to allow the departing aircraft onto the active runway while conducting a CATIIIB approach, regardless of separation. (Even in better circumstances the departing aircraft could have jeopardized the integrity of the ILS signal.) That controller should be violated for a whole slew of errors. And yes, the captain of the departing aircraft should have recognized the stupidity and illegality of the whole situation.
Joe Vincent 22
Who writes the headlines for these articles? The word "attempted" makes it sound like the FedEx crew was trying to land knowing the SWA plane was taking off. That was not the case. Perhaps "SWA cleared to takeoff from same runway that FDX aircraft was about to land on" would be more accurate.
sparkie624 18
I was honestly expecting it to be a SWA Fault, but in this case, it looks like the Controller screwed up big time... FedEx Pilots reacted well and did a good job to prevent from what could have been a much worse day than it was...
Brian Freeman 8
Outstanding situational awareness and response by the FedEx crew! Kudos.
wstroud 13
Completely controllers fault. Southwest was cleared for TO, but it sounds like they took longer on the ground to get rolling than expected. Kuddos to the heads up FE pilots for the GA.
ExPatHere 6
FedEx pilot saved the day. Tower and SWA should be called out on this. Who’s manning these Control Towers these days?
Rick Hunt 8
Totally the controller's fault. The clearance to SWA should have been "Cleared for IMMEDIATE TAKEOFF or HOLD SHORT for landing traffic."
David Beattie 4
Great decision making by the FedEx crew!
sharon bias 4
Latest report says fog reduced visibility to 1/8 mile. Both pilots and controller really only had their instruments to guide them. With the speed both aircraft were moving, the time to use verbal communication was not enough. Really lucky.
mbrews 4
Likely an inexperienced ATC controller in the tower that day. Listening to the audio recordings, controller takes effort to spell out the visibility figures along the obscured runway.

However, IMO the controller seems biased to "keep 'em moving " since there was a queue of 4 other aircraft awaiting takeoff that early morning in Austin.
Michael Foster 9
After hearing the real time audio, I think the controller AND the SWA should share the blame. The SWA pilot knew the Heavy FedEx was on 3 mile final. THREE MILE FINAL.
Let's see. B767 landing speed is 135 knots or 155 miles per hour.
Time to cover 3 miles is 70 seconds.
As a pilot of any aircraft, would you pull onto the runway, even if you had a clearance??
By the time the SWA reported his readiness for takeoff, the controller to respond and clear him onto the runway, the pilot to acknowledge the takeoff clearance took probably 15 of those 70 seconds.
The tower should have never given the SWA the clearance, the SWA should have rejected it.
Don't forget we are talking an eighth mile of visibility here....

Tom Bruce 5
"cleared for takeoff" means you are clear... SW pilot not to blame...we used to use. "cleared for immediate takeoff or hold short of the runway..traffic 3 mile final". and.. with a plane inside 3 miles...not sure I'd have even cleared SW
uapilot 3
That’s like saying if they cleared me into a brick wall, I’d have no choice even when it’s clearly not a great idea. Defensive flying when you believe everyone is trying to kill you has always been the safe approach. We don’t turn off the brains at the airplanes door!
Tom Ladtkow 6
My guess is the controller is fairly new and not a pilot. I agree the SWA pilot showed very poor judgement since the Fedex 767 was slightly more than a minute away.
James Simms 3
Austin has two runways. My question is, why wasn’t the SWA placed on one runway to depart allowing the FedEx plane to land on the other. There’s no mention of the longest runway being out of service.

Isn’t there suppose to be @ least two ATC in the Tower @ all times, after the Comair 5191 crash @ LEX in August 2006?
Frank Dasmacci 3
Agreed, the controller in that weather type should not have cleared take for take off with FedEX on approach at 3 miles, or even 5 miles... what if FADEC delayed, which happens.

Furthermore, the controller at the very least should have said "SWA ... cleared ..._NO DELAY, traffic on 3 mile final for same runway)
John D 3
Not a pilot, so bear with me. I am puzzled as to why some may be laying some blame on the SW flight crew. I have observed many times when it appears that a flight has been cleared to take off, there is some delay before they start the roll. Most often it's the flight crew is not ready, (check lists, etc.). For me, I'm okay with making sure all is in order before starting the roll.
In my experience if the distance is the tight Tower or the Pilot can initiate “IMMEDIATE TAKE-OFF” meaning that if the offer from Tower is accepted, OR the Pilot states “READY IMMEDIATE T/O”, upon clearance IMM the aircraft will taxi onto the active and NOT STOP and continue into the takeoff.

Given the tight distance of 3 mi the word IMMEDIATE should have been included in the R/T and SWA could have been airborne with a short but safe separation from FEDEX.

My $0.02 worth.
Jay Cee 7
Air Traffic Controllers are government employees and are no longer being hired and retained based on competence. I do not expect the quality of ATC to stay at the excellent level where it used to be.
ExPatHere 1
Even non-pilots can see this is true….Lowering standards outs us all at risk. It will take a tragedy to really get this fixed. But I'm not counting in it.
David Beattie -4
It was government operated back in the “good old days” also. I’m sure you mean that it was only good when it was all male, all white because you believe white people never make mistakes. You know, Like Tenerife or UA running out of gas in a DC-8 or Eastern running a perfectly good L1011 into a swamp because nobody was paying attention.
strickerje 4
No one's saying white males never make mistakes, only that once you include considerations other than competency in hiring decisions, you'll end up with lower quality employees.
Bill Overdue 2
Clearly that's what's happening in all fields! eg; Memphis cops
Jay Cee 5
If you hire someone based on preferred skin color, gender, or victim status over their ability to perform complex tasks, the results will suffer. All of the incidents you referenced are pretty old and standard practices both in the cockpit and the control tower have all improved since then.
James Simms 2
EvA Air 15 16 Dec 2016 @ LAX SoCal Departure ATC nearly sent the flight into Mt. Wilson, then into an Air Canada flight
John Rogers 1
Very noble of you to be offended on behalf of all non white male" people. It must be uncomfortable, carrying around all that white guilt. Give yourself a break, and let it go.

Hey, you ever spend any time on CV-66 back in the '80s?
Michael Osmers -3
And to what exactly do you base your assessment?
Jay Cee 5
Personal observation over a 40 year career.
boughbw 2
Has any video/audio from the SW flight emerged? Often passengers will record their flights.
I ask because that had to be on hell of an experience being under a 767, getting lit-up by its landing lights and then hearing it roar into TOGA right on top of their heads. That would be far more shocking than any of the rest of this has been.
Tom Bruce 3
we use to use..."cleared for immediate takeoff or hold short of the runway...traffic 3 mile final"... SW not to blame
boughbw 6
Yes and no. The SW pilot should have questioned the clearance. What gets me is the repeating back of the awareness of the inbound FedEx flight and then dawdling to take-off. It is as if the pilot was just repeating the words without considering their consequence.
At the same time in fog, that clearance window closes pretty quickly and ATC should not have given it.
No happy stickers for anyone but the FedEx pilots.
Bob Thomas 4
Agreed as they were prepping gor a go around when they questioned the landing clearance. Wondering where tower supervision was at that point.
Bob Thomas 0
Can you imagine the "pucker factor" on FedX? It's a dual share. With all that rvr jargon that was included with the clearance the pilot could've easily said I'll wait. Cleared for immediate only works if they're truly ready to go. Referring to the rvr junk, the controller should have just issued a hold short. I've given departure clearances that close (6000' and airborne) but not here. Too many factors.
Scott Banning 3
Southwest should have been told to hold at the ILS critical area hold line with an aircraft shooting a low vis approach. This is the controllers fault, but the SW pilot should have been aware after being given the facts that FedEx was within 3 miles of the runway & the visibility was below CAT I minimums, he should not have accepted the takeoff clearance. The SW pilot also ignored the "abort" called by FedEx, although it is unknown whether SW was above V1 at that point.
John Lussier 3
There is no "ILS critical area" on taxiways's B or F for runway 17L at KAUS. The glideslope antenna is on the east side of the runway. Only taxiway E (on the east side of 18L) has an ILS critical area boundary sign.
jhakunti 3
JFK, AUS, the 3rd time's a charm. NTSB should combine the two incidents in an investigation look and produce a finding with recommendations.
Billy Croan 1
Yep. Let's all sing about how important having humans is in the cockpit.
if Runway.occupied = true; then abort_landing(); fi
computers can't be trusted. Nope. That'll never work.
Steve Cutchen 1
Steve Cutchen 2
sorry for the double post.
Bob Thomas 1
So, who called "abort" twice?
John West 1
Yes. Please change title of article so FedEx does not appear to be at fault.
Does anyone know what the minimum FAA clearance separation is for departing/arriving traffic on the same runway? I have heard that it is 3 minutes on smaller planes departing from an intersection, but what about commercial traffic? It seems the FedEx pilot did the right thing, but I think he should have started the go-around as soon as he saw the SWA start to line up for takeoff. Once SWA lined up he was committed to the takeoff, and that was too close for comfort. I'm sure he gave ATC the number to call.
Peter Fuller 1
With visibility as low as it was, it’s not clear that the FedEx pilot actually “saw the SWA line up for takeoff.” The FedEx crew did nothing wrong and a lot of things right.
Rich Pelkowski 1
Two (2) very close calls in the last couple of weeks. JFK pilot error; AUS Controller error. Of course only those directly involved in the investigation will discover what may have been occuring in the AAL cockpit, and AUS Control Tower. I praythe FAA's change in Controller hiring policies did not contributre to the error in AUS.
Bruce Knight 2
I still can’t understand the JFK AAL B772 incursion, with 3 pilots, who I believe were all based in NYC (even with the FO being her first B77 flight).
Matt Lacey 3
There was a credible note about AA changing cockpit procedures just before that - I think it was that one of the crew would've been making an announcement to the cabin around that time. Added distraction.
John Rogers 1
"I praythe FAA's change in Controller hiring policies did not contributre to the error in AUS."

I hope it did. That's something easily corrected.
uapilot 1
But I’ll bet you it DID!!
uapilot 1
Then again, if it is truly because to unqualified personnel at ATC or in the cockpit, do you really think that’s what will be pointed out? In this current skewing of the truth to fit political and social “desired” narratives?
It amazes me people are surprised when things like this take place, this is part of what happens when you are forced to lower your standards to meet quotas and diversity standards that have very little if anything to do with the job these people will be doing. You end up with folks that should never be an ATC being ATC's.
Kevin Keswick 3
I don't know why people are giving you the thumbs down. When you listen to the audio of the controller it makes you wonder if he was hired as part of some "equity" quota. Any honest investigation of this incident would look at how this guy was hired. Was he hired on merit? Somehow I doubt it
uapilot 3
Having seen this from the inside and despite all the social agenda idiots, truth speaks truth. You are so very correct and no amount of nauseating PC is going to change the truth.
Bill Overdue 1
Hmm, equity in the ATC office?
Steve Cutchen 1

While it seems to be important in this here chatroom, I don't know the skin color of the person that took it. Sorry.
electroman00 1
That is a simulation video...some may not be aware!
Roger Jaffe 3
It has to be a simulation -- visibility was only 1/8 mi at the time.
Steve Cutchen 1
Confirmed. Wow.
Steve Cutchen 3
Here's the CGI. You'll notice that the flight paths, especially post avoidance, does not match the real video.
Donald Duck 1
You call it a "real" video, but be aware it is from Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Steve Cutchen 0
Not the ticktok video.
Steve Cutchen 2
I stand corrected... Wow.
Joe Keifer 1
Runway incursions happen a lot more than you think and no amount of automation can entire mitigate human error.


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