What We Know Now About Friday Night’s Near-Disaster At JFK Airport

by Gary Leff

On Friday night, American Airlines flight 106 from New York JFK to London Heathrow had a near-collision with a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 headed to Santo Domingo. The incident was first reported by aviation watchdog JonNYC.

The American plane, a 22 year old Boeing 777-200 (registration N754AN) crossed in front of the Delta jet that was in its takeoff roll. Air traffic control saw this happening and at almost the last possible moment called out to Delta to abort takeoff, out of fear the two planes would collide (“Shit! Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance!”).

  • The Delta flight stopped less than 1000 feet from where it would have intersected with American’s plane.
  • Runway 4L was being used for takeoffs. The American Airlines aircraft did not follow air traffic control instructions. ATC audio shows they were told to “”cross runway 31 Left at Kilo” and instead crossed runway 4 Left at Juliet, in front of the accelerating Delta Boeing 737.

More of the audio is now available via @liveatc. @FAANews @JFKairport to American 106: “Cross Runway 31L at Kilo.”

No other audio is heard before Delta 1943 was cleared for departure and American 106 crossed Runway 4L. https://t.co/mCg2KWLIpl pic.twitter.com/CRFlEYZ1EH

— Ross Feinstein (@RossFeinstein) January 15, 2023

The American Airlines pilots clearly got their instructions wrong. Disaster was narrowly avoided. We don’t know at this point that the accelerating Delta jet would have hit the American plane, but it might have, this was a huge mistake with potentially tragic consequences. The FAA is investigating and we’ll eventually hear much more detail.

American Airlines 106 wound up departing for London from runway 31L after a call to report the incident to JFK Tower.

The Delta flight to Santo Domingo was delayed until the next morning. In a rejected takeoff like this one, where heavy use of brakes is applied, they may have wanted to have the plane inspected by maintenance. Crew may have timed out. Or the pilots may have just called it a night, quite reasonably deciding that after a near-miss it was best not to continue. That would have been more than reasonable judgment.

As I previously shared, you can watch the two aircraft in this illustration. At 14 seconds in you see the Delta plane in its takeoff roll, aborting at the last minute as the American Airlines Boeing 777-200 crossed right in front of it.


— Casey Wade (@CaseWade) January 14, 2023

Ultimately, based on what we know at this point, strong kudos are due both to the air traffic controller who called off the Delta 737 and to the pilots of that plane who managed to abort their takeoff and stop the aircraft before it crossed runway 31L where the Boeing widebody passed in front of it.

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