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Southwest Flight Couldn't Wait 2 Minutes And Took Off From Closed Runway

Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto (Getty Images)
Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

A Southwest Airlines flight took off from Portland, Maine on June 25 for a seemingly routine trip to Baltimore, Maryland. There was only one problem;air traffic control never cleared the plane to take off because the runway and the tower were still closed that morning. The scheduled opening was only two minutes away. The FAA and the NTSB are now investigating the incident with cooperation from the carrier.

Controllers warned the low-cost airline’s flight crew multiple times that there was a vehicle on the runway, but the crew never responded. In an audio recording obtained by WMTW, a controller is heard stating, “Southwest just turning onto 29, just so you know there’s a vehicle in the runway still and it is closed.” Fortunately, the vehicle cleared the strip as Southwest Flight 4805 began its takeoff roll.

Air traffic controller later pondered minutes later, “Did you ever get ahold of that Southwest plane that went airborne? It’s still kind of MIA in that regard.” The flight safely reached its destination, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. However, it doesn’t take a pilot’s license to realize how disastrous the situation could have been. Southwest told Simple Flying:

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“Southwest Airlines is engaged with the NTSB and FAA to understand the circumstances of an early morning Southwest departure on Tuesday, June 25, of Flight 4805 from Portland International Jetport. After departure, the aircraft continued safely to its destination.”

A difference of two minutes might sound inconsequential, but a potential collision involving an airliner should be avoided at all costs. We are talking about a massive aircraft carrying over 100 passengers and filled with over 2,000 gallons of fuel. Near-misses are happening more frequently than ever, over 40 per month by some counts. While federal regulators are attempting to improve safety, only distance separates a miss-near from a tragedy.

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