In a chilling report, safety officials are fleshing out the details of a recent sky-high scare in Texas, where a FedEx cargo jet and a Southwest Airlines plane came terrifyingly close to a midair disaster. Controller Damian Campbell, involved in the hair-raising incident at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, reportedly told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in a transcript that he expected the Southwest plane "to be well down the runway" when the FedEx plane touched down, reported by KVUE.
The NTSB is investigating an incident involving a Southwest 737 and FedEx 767 that occurred today in Austin. Initial ADS-B data show the landing 767 overflying the departing 737. We are processing granular data now. https://t.co/twHCydm5ixhttps://t.co/wZ3Z0xKJem pic.twitter.com/nkKVjshXmf— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 5, 2023
On February 4, during what was an opaque dawn swaddled in dense fog, the controller cleared the Southwest flight for takeoff, anticipating its usual brisk departure. Southwest jets, as Campbell, who couldn't see the Southwest plane from his station in the tower due to the fog, recounted to investigators, "usually took off as soon as they got permission." Yet a combination of reduced visibility and an unexpectedly protracted takeoff led to the FedEx pilots performing a last-second pull up to avoid the Southwest aircraft—the two behemoths of the sky missing each other by a heart-stopping 100 feet.
The near-disaster is not an isolated horror but instead joins a surge of close shaves that have sparked trepidation across the aviation industry. It has prompted deep dives into the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) procedures and the invocation of a "safety summit." A concerned panel has called attention to the need for better staffing, more advanced equipment, and tech to manage the nation's bustling airspace, as per KVUE.
In a reflection of the bewildering sequence of events, Captain Hugo Carvajal III, grasping the controls of the FedEx aircraft, expressed his frustration and bewilderment in an account to NTSB. "My initial response was an expletive, like 'What's he doing?'" he told investigators, a detail relayed by Airport Technology.