An American Airlines flight had to abort its takeoff from Boston Logan International Airport on Monday, August 14, 2023, after a Spirit Airlines plane came too close to the runway. The incident was reported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which said it was investigating the matter.
According to the FAA, an air traffic controller noticed that Spirit Airlines Flight 1444, which was taxiing to its gate, was approaching the runway hold line, which is a marked boundary that separates the taxiway from the runway.
The controller then instructed American Airlines Flight 457Q, which was about to take off for Chicago O’Hare International Airport, to cancel its takeoff clearance “out of an abundance of caution”.
The American Airlines flight, which was carrying 143 passengers and six crew members, had to slam on its brakes and return to the gate. The flight was delayed for about two hours before it departed for Chicago. The Spirit Airlines flight, which had arrived from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with 228 passengers and seven crew members, continued to its gate without any further issues.
How did the passengers react?
The passengers on board the American Airlines flight were shaken by the sudden stop and the near miss with the other plane. Some of them took to social media to share their experience and express their frustration.
Cosmo Rowell, who was on the flight, told Fox News that the incident was “terrifying”. He said:
“As soon as you start to take off, you get these G-forces where you pitted in the back of your seat and you start to get used to that and then they just hit the brakes.”
Another passenger, who identified herself as Kelly on Twitter, wrote:
“Just had a near miss at Logan airport. Our plane was taking off and another plane crossed into our runway. We had to abort takeoff and are now sitting on the tarmac. Scary stuff.”
Some passengers also praised the pilot and the crew for their professionalism and calmness during the situation. One passenger, who identified himself as Matt on Twitter, wrote:
“Shout out to the pilot and crew of AA457Q for handling a scary situation with grace and poise. Glad we are all safe and sound.”
How did the airlines respond?
Both American Airlines and Spirit Airlines issued statements regarding the incident and said they were cooperating with the FAA investigation.
A spokesperson for American Airlines said:
“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority and we apologize for the delay in our customer’s travel plans.”
A spokesperson for Spirit Airlines said:
“We are aware of the incident involving one of our aircraft at Boston Logan International Airport. We are working with the FAA and American Airlines to gather more information about what happened.”
How common are runway incursions?
A runway incursion is defined by the FAA as “any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take off of aircraft”.
According to the FAA data, there were 1,832 runway incursions in fiscal year 2022, which ended on September 30, 2022. Of these, 21 were classified as Category A, which means a serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided; 142 were classified as Category B, which means an incident in which separation decreases and there is a significant potential for collision; 1,065 were classified as Category C, which means an incident characterized by ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision; and 604 were classified as Category D, which means an incident that meets the definition of runway incursion such as incorrect presence of a single vehicle/person/aircraft on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft but with no immediate safety consequences.
The FAA has implemented various measures to prevent and reduce runway incursions, such as improving signage, lighting, markings, procedures, training, technology, and awareness. However, human factors such as errors, miscommunication, fatigue, distraction, or complacency still play a major role in causing runway incursions.