JetBlue, Southwest jets have close call at Washington airport after ATC mishap

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it plans to investigate a close call involving JetBlue and Southwest aircraft in Washington on Thursday. 

JetBlue Airways told FOX Business that Flight 1554, which was flying from Washington, D.C., to Boston, had to abort its takeoff because another aircraft had attempted to cross the runway. 

Just before 8 a.m. local time, an air traffic controller instructed Southwest Airlines Flight 2937 to cross a runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport while the JetBlue flight was starting its takeoff roll on the same runway, the FAA told FOX Business.

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JetBlue said no injuries were reported and that the aircraft was inspected before taking off for Boston.

“Safety is JetBlue’s first priority, and we will work closely with federal officials as this event is fully investigated,” JetBlue said. 

JetBlue Airways told FOX Business that Flight 1554, which was flying from Washington, D.C., to Boston, had to abort its takeoff because another aircraft had attempted to cross the runway. (JetBlue/ REUTERS/Lucas Jackson / Reuters Photos)

Southwest told FOX Business that it was “aware of the incident” and “working with the FAA to fully understand the circumstances.” 

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In February 2023, then-acting Administrator Billy Nolen created a safety review team to examine the reliability of the nation’s air traffic system after the string of close calls early last year. He claimed that while air travel is coming back, the “long layoff, coupled with the increased technical nature of our systems, might have caused some professionals to lose some of that muscle memory.”

Since Mike Whitaker took over as head of the agency in October 2023, he’s been looking into concerns that air traffic controllers are not getting enough sleep. 

Southwest Airlines plane takes off

Southwest told FOX Business that it was “aware of the incident” and “working with the FAA to fully understand the circumstances.” (REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo / Reuters Photos)

“With the safety of our controllers and national airspace always top of mind for FAA, I took this very seriously – and we’re taking action,” he said in a statement on Friday. 

Since December 2023, when the FAA commissioned an independent panel of scientific fatigue experts to assess the risks introduced by controller fatigue in the system, the FAA has been implementing systemic changes to ensure that air traffic controllers are getting sufficient rest. 

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In part, Whitaker said he is requiring 10 hours off between shifts, and 12 hours off before a midnight shift, effective in 90 days, which is consistent with the expert panel’s recommendations. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 7.11 0.00 0.00%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 29.38 +0.33 +1.14%

“I understand this lengthened rest period will be an adjustment for thousands of our air traffic controllers,” he said. “We are committed to engaging the workforce and our partners at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) to prioritize health and well-being as operations adapt.”

The FAA told FOX Business earlier this month that it has “seen a recent drop in the rate of serious runway incidents” after there was a string of them in early 2023. 

Despite the drop, it is ramping up efforts to ensure that the number of incidents falls to zero. Earlier this week, it announced it was rolling out new airfield surveillance systems to minimize the risk of close calls between aircraft on the runway.

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