Audio files reveal the dramatic moment air traffic controllers warned pilots about a near-fatal 115mph plane crash.
The Federal Transit Authority workers jumped into action Friday night to prevent a departing Delta flight carrying 145 passengers from colliding into the side of an American Airlines flight bound for the UK.
The Delta flight was preparing for takeoff when it was forced to slam on the brakes, stopping just 1,000 feet from a possible fatal collision.
It seems the unnamed American Airlines pilot had crossed into the wrong lane, popping up right in front of the accelerating Delta plane.
But throughout it all, the Delta pilot seemed calm and collected as he told Air Traffic Control he would just have to return to a gate and make a few phone calls.
An American Airlines plane was seen crossing the path of a Delta flight as it was about to take off. Air traffic control exclaimed ‘s***!’ as they noticed the potential collision
Federal Transit Authority recordings detail the moments immediately before and after the potential crash at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport at around 8.45pm Friday.
It begins with the American Airlines pilot saying the flight was ready to taxi onto a runway, to which an air traffic controller says they should take runway 4 left and ‘hold short of Kilo.’
The female pilot repeats the message when another air traffic controller informs her to ‘cross runway 31 left at Kilo.’
She responds that she is ‘crossing 31 left at Kilo’ but starts to approach the wrong lane, heading straight rather than turn right.
Just a moment later, air traffic control clears the Delta flight heading to the Dominican Republic that it is ‘cleared for takeoff.’
The pilot affirms the message saying: ‘Cleared for takeoff, runway 4 left, Delta 1943.’
But as it proceeded down the runway at 115mph, an air traffic controller noticed that the Delta flight was about to T-bone the American Airlines flight.
‘S***, ah! F***’ a controller could be heard saying.
At that point another air traffic controller comes on the radio urging ‘America 106 Heavy, America 106 Heavy, Heavy hold position… American 106 Heavy hold position.’
A third air traffic controller, meanwhile, tells the Delta pilot: ‘Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance.’
The pilot replies that he is ‘rejecting,’ as an air traffic controller asks what his intentions are.
‘Yeah, we’re gonna have to go somewhere, run a couple of checklists and probably make some phone calls for Delta 1943,’ the pilot says calmly.
At that point, an air traffic controller says the plane can ‘taxi right on Bravo and hold short of Hotel Bravo’ — which the pilot once again repeats.
But another air traffic controller ten asks: ‘Delta 1943 did you make the switch?’
‘Yes sir, we did,’ the pilot responds.
‘OK, I’m guessing you’re [going to] wanna move, right?’
‘Uh, well, uh we gotta make a couple phone calls here and my guess is that we’re gonna go back to a gate,’ the pilot says, apparently shrugging off the near crash.
The air traffic controller agrees with his assessment, saying: ‘OK I’, figuring that as well.’
He then turned his attention back to the rogue American Airlines flight, saying there was ‘possible pilot deviation’ and ‘I have a number for you, advise read to copy.’
The female pilot replies that she is ready to copy down the phone number, while an apparent co-pilot asks: ‘The last clearance we were given, we were cleared to cross, is that correct?’
The air traffic controller responds, ‘I guess we’ll listen to the tapes, but you were uh supposed to depart 4L. You’re currently holding short of runway 31L.’
The Delta flight eventually took off to Santa Domingo Airport in the Dominican Republic the next morning, while the American Airlines flight arrived on time at London Heathrow on Saturday morning (file images)
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board both announced they would start investigations into the incident.
A Delta spokesperson said in a statement it ‘will work with and assist aviation authorities on a full review of flight 1943 on Jan. 13 regarding a successful aborted takeoff procedure at New York-JFK.
‘We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay of their travels.’
American Airlines would not comment on the incident and said it would defer all questions to the FAA.
Former US Department of Transportation general Mary Schiavo told CNN that the incident fell into the ‘most serious category of runway incursions’ (category A) and that such occurrences are on the rise.
John Cox, a retired pilot and professor of aviation safety at the University of Southern California, told NBC News: ‘The Delta crew was doing exactly what it was supposed to.’
He added that he thought the controller ‘made a good call to reject the takeoff.’
And, Cox said the rejected takeoff safety maneuver, which is when pilots stop the aircraft and discontinue the takeoff, is one they are ‘very, very familiar with.’
‘Pilots practice rejected takeoff almost every time they get to the simulator,’ he said.
‘They’ll go back and listen to every transmission between the American jet and air traffic control to see who misunderstood what,’ Cox said.