'Southwest, Stop!' Air Planes Avoid Runway Collision By Less Than 400 Feet in Washington D.C.

Photo: Brendan Hoffman (Getty Images)
Photo: Brendan Hoffman (Getty Images)

Two airliners almost collided on a runway at Reagan National Airport just outside of Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning. A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 was cleared to taxi across a runway, while a JetBlue Embraer ERJ-190 was about to take off on the same runway. WTOP reports the potential disaster was averted as the planes were within 400 feet of each other. While no one was hurt and no aircraft was damaged, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

The recording of air traffic control communications highlights the crucial error that was made and the frantic dash to correct it once a controller spotted it. A ground controller cleared the Southwest flight to cross Runway 4. Just a few seconds later, a tower controller cleared the JetBlue flight to take off on Runway 4. When it quickly became clear that the planes were headed for each other, the ground and tower desperately called over the radio, “JetBlue 1554, Stop!” and “Southwest, Stop! Southwest 2937!” Both planes stopped and eventually departed the airport safely, arriving at their destinations on time.


This incident at Reagan National isn’t a one-off occurrence in a vacuum. There’s a nationwide shortage of air traffic controllers, which has led to terrible working conditions for those tasked with such a vital job. The reports of the controller falling asleep on the job and showing up to work either drunk or under the influence of drugs due to stress while on the clock are worrying. According to the FAA, there have only been 31 runway incursions per one million takeoffs and landings. However, if only one of those near-misses becomes a crash, it would be catastrophic.

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