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'Narrowly avoided crash' at DC-area airport sparks FAA investigation

Lawmakers said it was a "horrifying example" of the effects of undermining slot and perimeter rules, calling the airport's runway "overburdened."
'Narrowly avoided crash' at DC-area airport sparks FAA investigation
Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 18, 2024

Virginia Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine called a "near crash" at Ronald Reagan National Airport on Thursday morning a "horrifying example" of the effects of efforts to undermine slot and perimeter rules. They called the runway where the incident happened "overburdened" and "the busiest in the country." 

On Thursday morning at around 7:40 a.m. ET, Southwest Flight 2937 and JetBlue Flight 1554 almost collided as air traffic controllers frantically told the planes to stop, as later heard in audio of the incident.

According to flight monitoring sites, the Southwest flight was around 65 feet away from entering a runway where the JetBlue plane sat around 300 feet away. 

The Virginia lawmakers released a visualization with audio of the incident where an air traffic controller can be heard yelling "Southwest 2937 STOP!"

Another controller is heard intervening saying, "JetBlue 1554, do you have room to get around the Southwest [plane]? ... Or even double back onto runway 4 full lane?"

The plane then told the controller he could make a left on the A runway and move out of the way. 

The FAA confirmed to Scripps News that the agency would investigate the incident and that information it has is preliminary, saying JetBlue Flight 1554 was starting its takeoff roll on the same runway when the incident happened. 

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In the statement from Sens. Warner and Kaine on Thursday, they said "we fear that adding more flights could put passenger safety at serious jeopardy. We are thankful there was no loss of life or injuries, but this close call is unacceptable and we must ensure even near misses never occur again. To state the obvious: Passenger safety should be a higher priority than whether some lawmakers have a direct flight home from DCA."

The senators say they have repeatedly opposed changes to slot and perimeter rules, which they say govern the amount of flights safely allowed to operate out of Reagan National Airport. 

In February, Sen. Kaine's office released a statement calling the Senate Commerce Committee's actions to introduce a provision to change slot and perimeter rules "unsafe." 

Sen. Kaine called the decision "profoundly reckless" and said the Senate Commerce Committee is "gambling with the safety of everyone who uses" the airport. 

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