Dramatic audio has emerged to capture the pilot of a FedEx cargo plane that dramatically crashed into a Southwest Airlines flight in Texas last week telling the other plane to abort its takeoff.
FedEx Flight 1432 from Memphis was cleared to land on the left side of runway 18 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport early Saturday — but seconds later, Southwest Flight 708 also alerted air traffic control. That he is “ready” for a short departure from the runway, as is customary. According to a recording from LiveATC.net.
“Fly heading 170, runway 18 left, cleared for takeoff. Traffic three miles final is a heavy 767,” the controller tells Flight 708, bound for Cancun, Mexico.
The term “heavy” refers to aircraft over a certain weight that alert pilots to wake turbulence.
“Copy traffic,” replies the pilot, as he acknowledges take-off clearance.
Incoming and departing flights are normally issued simultaneous landing and take-off clearances as long as there is sufficient separation between the two.
“Tower, confirm that FedEx 1432 has been cleared heavy to land at 18 left,” says the cargo pilot, apparently aware that the other plane was still on the runway.
“This is confirmation. Runway 18 left, you are cleared for landing. Departing traffic is a 737 prior to your arrival,” replies the controller.
Moments later, he begins to notice that Southwest’s flight was slowing down.
“Southwest 708, confirm on a roll,” he says.
The pilot replies, “Just spinning.”
The recording then captures what appears to be a FedEx pilot saying: “Southwest, abort. FedEx on the move. The identity of the person speaking could not be immediately confirmed.”
The controller instructs the Southwest pilot to “turn right when able”, apparently under the impression that he has aborted takeoff – but the pilot says “Negative” and proceeds to take off.
The aircraft had likely reached the so-called V1 “commitment to fly” speed and could not abort safely.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the FedEx plane aborted its landing and “initiated a climb,” or spin.
“The pilot of the FedEx aircraft aborted the landing and initiated a climb,” the FAA said in a statement. “Southwest Flight Departed Safely.”
Flight radar data showed the FedEx plane flying 75 feet above the Southwest plane while the Southwest plane was 4 feet above the ground, possibly within 71 feet of each other.
“Climbing and maintaining FedEx 1432, 3,000. When able, you may turn left heading 080,” says the controller. “Southwest 708, you can turn left heading 170.”
An animated video Posted by FlightRadar24 It shows the FedEx plane approaching and passing the Southwest flight before making a sharp turn off the runway.
After bringing the FedEx flight back to the airport for a safe landing, the controller tells the pilot, “We apologize. We appreciate your professionalism.”
The National Transportation Safety Board described the incident as a “possible runway interference and overflight of Southwest Airlines and FedEx aircraft.”
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the near miss.
The Post has reached out to Southwest for comment.
A similar situation occurred at New York City’s JFK airport last month when an American Airlines flight crossed the runway from an adjacent taxiway as a Delta Airlines flight was about to take off. This forced the Delta pilot to apply the brakes.