FAA investigating third near-miss incident at Austin airport in the past year

The FAA is investigating a "close call" incident that took place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Sept. 23 between a Cessna Citation jet and an F-18 fighter jet.

"The pilot of a Cessna Citation jet took evasive action after receiving an onboard alert that the F-18 was nearby," an FAA spokesperson shared with FOX 7. "The F-18 also flew near Runway 18L while a Piper PA-28 was preparing for takeoff." 

The FAA will determine how close the two aircrafts got to each other as part of its ongoing investigation.

"One of the complications that a situation like this can create is that the military pilots use different frequencies than the civilian pilots," said Mike Slack, managing partner at Slack Davis Sanger. "So the civilian pilots don't necessarily hear what's taking place between the controller and the military jet."

Slack is experienced in aviation litigation and is a pilot himself. 

"It creates a Tower of Babel problem, right? It is not because they're speaking different languages. They're speaking on different radio frequencies," said Slack. "I've had experiences myself with military aircraft showing up suddenly and unexpectedly because I was not hearing communications on my frequency between the military aircraft and the handling controller. So the military situation could present a different set of circumstances because of that feature. And remember, too, these aircraft are used to flying into and landing using a different pattern approach than civilian aircraft."

The September event is the third "close call" incident to occur at ABIA this year. 

In February, a Southwest flight was cleared for take-off as a FedEx cargo plane was coming in to land. The planes missed each other by about 70 feet at one point.

In June, an Allegiant plane making a landing came too close to a small plane.

Slack noted that flight coordination is a team effort between pilots and air traffic controllers. However, every pilot is different. 

"So you have accents, you have phraseology, you have experience," said Slack. "This is where I have a tremendous amount of respect for controllers, they have to deal with this huge salad of differing experiences, accents."

In addition to pilots and controllers, the FAA spokesperson noted that "multiple layers of safety protect the traveling public, including: Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems on commercial aircraft, surface safety technology at the country's biggest airports, and robust procedures."

The FAA held a Safety Summit in March to work toward pursuing a goal of zero serious close calls. 

Steps already taken include allotting millions of dollars to airports around the country to reduce ‘runway incursions’ and naming an independent safety review team to examine more ways to enhance safety. The findings from that team should be available sometime this month.