NTSB investigating close call between planes at Reagan National Airport

FAN Editor

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating a close call between two planes last week at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia, the latest in a string of similar such incidents on U.S. airport runways this year.

On March 7, at around 8:30 a.m. EST, a Republic Airways Flight 4736 — operating as American Eagle Flight No. 4736 and bound for Raleigh, North Carolina — taxied across a runway that a United Airlines Flight No. 2003, an Airbus A319 bound for Chicago, had just been cleared to take off from, the NTSB told CBS News.

“They did did not cross the runway at the time, but it came close,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told CBS News Wednesday.

Homendy told CBS News that it appeared both planes were given instructions by different air traffic controllers that could have put them on a collision course, before the pilots of United Flight No. 2003 were told to abort their take off. 

Preliminary information reviewed by the NTSB indicates ground controllers gave the Republic flight permission to taxi across the runway that controllers in the DCA Tower were clearing for the United flight to use for takeoff.

“The United flight did not take off,” Homendy said. “They, the tower, aborted it very quickly. So it didn’t end up to be a runway incursion, but it could easily, easily have been one.”

But a preliminary review from the FAA offered a slightly different account than that of the NTSB. The FAA, in a statement obtained by CBS News, found that the Republic flight had been cleared to cross a different runway, but instead turned on the wrong taxiway. 

“According to a preliminary review, Republic Airways Flight 4736 crossed Runway 1 without clearance, putting the aircraft in the path of United Airlines Flight 2003, which had just been cleared for takeoff,” the agency said in a statement. “An air traffic controller noticed the situation and immediately canceled the takeoff clearance for the United flight.”

The FAA’s investigation will determine how close the two aircrafts got to each other during the incident. 

The disclosure of this event comes one day before the FAA convenes a safety summit with members of the aviation industry to discuss recent similar close calls: 

  • On Jan. 18, two planes bumped into each other at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. 
  • On Jan. 23, at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, a United Airlines plane crossed a runway while a private Cessna plane was landing. 

Kris Van Cleave contributed to this report. 

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