New investigation reveals rash of airplane near-misses on runways, in skies

WTVD logo
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Investigation reveals rash of near-misses on airport runways, in skies
A new investigation revealed a rash of airplane close calls on runways and in skies.

MIAMI -- A troubling new report from the New York Times shows potentially dangerous airline close calls may be more common than previously understood.

They can even happen on a daily basis.

In January, a Delta plane almost collided with an American Airlines flight that was on the wrong runway at JFK. The pilot slammed on the brakes.

SEE ALSO | 'I'm taking over this plane': Passenger tackled after allegedly trying to stab flight attendant

The next month, in Austin, a FedEx cargo plane came within 100 feet of a Southwest flight packed with passengers.

And, weeks later, in Boston, an air traffic control told a Learjet pilot to wait before taking off because a JetBlue plane was landing on an intersecting runway.

The pilot took off anyway, forcing the JetBlue plane to go from 87 feet to 3,900.

"And then, hitting the ground and going back up within seconds, you definitely got a jolt. Nobody knew what was going on," said Joe Bisbee, a JetBlue passenger.

In the New York Times review of internal FAA safety documents and an NASA database, they found only a fraction of near-misses and mid-air scares have been publicly disclosed.

"The New York Times is looking at NASA databases. That's bringing to light some of these incidents that haven't been publicly known. Most of them, if not all of them, have been factors involving human error," said Ret. USMC Col. Steve Ganyard.

READ MORE | Southwest plane makes emergency landing after flames seen shooting out of engine

Behind the concerns are an ongoing shortage of air traffic controllers and more planes in the sky.

According to a report from the Department Of Transportation's inspector general, this June, 20 of 26 critical air traffic control facilities were staffed below the minimum threshold of 85%, with controllers working mandatory overtime and six-day work weeks to cover the shortages.

The air traffic controllers union told ABC News that this is not sustainable. The FAA said the U.S. aviation system is the safest in the world, but one close call is too many.