Editorial note—this blog is more appropriate for seasoned aviators rather than the casual reader. My apologies; I promise to return to a more relaxed writing style tomorrow.
This morning, a Lufthansa Airbus 340 with 286 passengers onboard almost collided with an Egypt Air Boeing 777. The event was the result of a runway incursion of incredible magnitude. It frightened many people in the know, including other airline pilots and air traffic controllers at JFK International Airport in New York.
(Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtlfmvbp2jo.)
A controller became so rattled he lost his phraseology and called for the departing aircraft to, “Cancel takeoff! Cancel takeoff plans,” rather than the more appropriate, “Takeoff clearance canceled.” After the frantic calls from the controller, the Lufthansa Flight 411 crew rejected their takeoff.
Apparently, the EgyptAir crew missed the turn onto taxiway Bravo, a taxiway that paralleled runway 22R. On 22R, the Lufthansa Airbus 340 had already begun its takeoff roll. When EgyptAir 986 crossed the hold short line leading onto the intersection of taxiway Juliet and runway 22R, either they realized their error and stopped, or possibly, they heard one of the ground controllers over the frequency crying out, “No! Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa!”
At the same time, the one controller yelled out to no aircraft in particular, to cancel takeoff plans and evidently, the Lufthansa crew realized they were the aircraft in extremis. They aborted the takeoff of their heavy airliner and were able to stop the airplane, luckily a considerable distance from the Boeing.
After getting the aircraft under control on the runway, they taxied clear of the runway at taxiway Hotel and waited for Port Authority technicians to check the aircraft for overheated brakes. After the technicians declared the brakes safe, Flight 411 taxied back to the terminal for a short time and later departed for Munich.
The FAA is looking into the matter and will more than likely issue a pilot deviation to the EgyptAir pilots. They were responsible for the event when they taxied their aircraft within 250 feet of an active runway.
Had the Lufthansa crew missed the radio transmission and not aborted their takeoff, the accident would have been very reminiscent of the crash between KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736. On March 27, 1977, the two Boeing 747s collided in the fog while trying to depart the island of Tenerife.
On that day, 583 people lost their lives as the result of a breakdown in communications and the arrogance of the KLM captain.
© 2011 J. Clark