Congress may get briefing on Austin airport's near collision between 2 planes
AUSTIN, Texas - A FedEx cargo airplane attempting to land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) Saturday morning had to reverse course after a second plane was cleared to depart from the same runway, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The close call involved a Southwest jet that was cleared for takeoff for a trip to Cancun and a FedEx cargo plane that was coming in for a landing.
Radio communications between air traffic control and the pilots were provided to FOX 7 from an online service.
FEDEX PILOT: "Southwest ABORT! FedEx is on the go."
Local pilot John Cyrier said he believes low visibility Saturday morning may have factored into the incident.
"This is a big near-miss, as they will as they will call it," said Cyrier.
Tracking data, from flightradar24, shows how the FedEx jet almost landed on top of the Southwest flight before pulling up. They got about 70 feet apart at one point.
"It could have been a disaster. In this case, the procedures, the safety protocols that the airlines have and the FedEx, or the groups that were flying, they worked," said Cyrier.
RELATED: Crash averted at Austin airport; FAA, NTSB to investigate
Two investigators with the NTSB were sent to Austin. A preliminary report is expected before the end of the month. The FAA, in a statement sent to FOX 7, confirmed what was recorded, saying:
"FedEx Flight 1432 was cleared to land on Runway 18-Left around 6:40 a.m. local time (Saturday, Feb. 4) while the aircraft was several miles from the airport. Shortly before the FedEx aircraft was due to land, the controller cleared Southwest Flight 708 to depart from the same runway."
In the audio, you can hear the air traffic controller trying to get the Southwest pilots out of the way of the cargo jet.
AUS TOWER: "Southwest 708, Roger. Could turn right when able?"
SWA PILOT: "Negative."
AUS TOWER: "Heavy 1432 climb and maintain 3,000 and make a turn of heading 0-8-0."
"With a situation like this, I think it just probably proves the point that they've been asking for a while, which is to increase the level of the airspace, which that means that there may be more controllers on board, there may be newer technology or more technology. It also limits the type of aircraft that can come into that airspace or to that airport in it. Just more of an awareness that it is a busier airport than our in our current condition, a Class C airspace," said Cyrier.
While the investigation has just started, the near miss ended with an apology from the control tower.
FEDEX PILOT: "FEDEX 1432 Heavy has cleared the runway."
AUS TOWER: "1432 FEDEX heavy roger sir you have our apologies we appreciate your professionalism."
FEDEX PILOT: "Thank you."
The head of the NTSB, Jennifer Homendy, is testifying before a congressional house committee Tuesday. FOX 7 is told she is expected to give committee members a briefing about the near miss in Austin.