Disaster was narrowly averted at New York’s busiest airport this week when air traffic controllers prevented a plane from landing on the same runway on which another aircraft was preparing to take off.
A Delta plane, Flight 4231, was readying itself for departure on John F Kennedy International’s Runway 13 as Volaris Flight 880 arriving from Mexico lined up to touch down on the same runway. The Delta flight crew spotted the approaching plane and informed air traffic control.
The controllers told the Delta plane to “cancel take off plans” and leave the runway, informing the Volaris pilot that the plane was heading for the wrong runway.
“You’re lined up on the wrong runway,” said an air traffic controller, according to a recording obtained by NBC. “Volaris 880 go around, turn left heading 100.”
The crew aborted the initial landing, looping around and landing safely at the second attempt on the correct runway minutes later. The Delta flight, bound for Washington, took off successfully.
No injuries were reported.
Volaris, a Mexican airline, released a statement following the incident: “Volaris will conduct an investigation to determine the factors that led to this event. The safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority.”
In July an Air Canada aircraft lined up to land on a busy taxiway on which four aircraft were waiting before an air traffic controller told the crew to pull up and go around.
The Airbus A320 had been cleared to land but the pilot “inadvertently” navigated towards a parallel taxiway instead of the destined runway.
Retired United Airlines captain Ross Aimer, now CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, said: “If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history.
“If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft wide bodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been.”