Air-traffic control audio captures near miss between FedEx, Southwest planes

Dramatic audio appeared to capture the pilot of a FedEx cargo plane that nearly collided dramatically with a Southwest Airlines flight last week in Texas telling the other aircraft to abort its takeoff.

FedEx Flight 1432 from Memphis was cleared to land on Runway 18 Left at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport early Saturday — but seconds later, Southwest Flight 708 also alerted air traffic control that it was “ready” for departure short of the runway, as is customary, according to a recording by

“Fly heading 170, Runway 18 Left, cleared for takeoff. Traffic three miles final is a heavy 767,” the controller tells Flight 708, which was bound for Cancun, Mexico.      

The term “heavy” refers to planes above a certain weight to alert pilots of wake turbulence.

“Copy the traffic,” the pilot responds, as he acknowledges takeoff clearance.

Arriving and departing flights are commonly issued simultaneous landing and takeoff clearances as long as there is enough separation between the two.

“Tower, confirm FedEx 1432 heavy cleared to land on 18 Left,” the cargo pilot says, apparently aware that the other plane was still on the runway.

FedEx cargo plane
The pilot of a landing FedEx flight apparently warned about a Southwest plane still on the runway in Austin, Texas.

“That is affirmative. Runway 18 Left, you are cleared to land. Traffic departing prior to your arrival is a 737,” the controller replies.

Moments later, he seems to realize the Southwest flight was slow to move.

“Southwest 708, confirm on a roll,” he says.

“Rolling now,” the pilot responds.

The recording then captures what appears to be the FedEx pilot saying: “Southwest, abort. FedEx is on the go.” The identity of the person speaking could not be immediately confirmed.

The controller instructs the Southwest pilot to “turn right when able,” apparently under the impression that he aborted the takeoff – but the pilot says “negative” and proceeds to take off.

The plane presumably had reached the so-called V1 “commit to fly” speed and could not safely abort.

Southwest airliner
The pilot of Southwest Flight 708 said he could not abort his takeoff before the near miss.
AFP via Getty Images

The FedEx plane aborted its landing and “initiated a climb out,” or go-around, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“The pilot of the FedEx airplane discontinued the landing and initiated a climb out,” the FAA said in a statement. “The Southwest flight departed safely.”

Data from Flight Radar shows the FedEx plane flew over the Southwest plane at an altitude of 75 feet while the Southwest plane was 4 feet above the ground, possibly making them within 71 feet of each other.

 “FedEx 1432, climb and maintain 3,000. When able, you can turn left heading 080,” the controller says. “Southwest 708, you can turn left heading 170.”

An animated video post by FlightRadar24 shows the FedEx plane approaching and passing directly over the Southwest flight before making a sharp turn away from the runway.

Image of two planes near each other
The two planes reportedly came within about 70 feet of each other above the runway.

After vectoring the FedEx flight back to the airport for a safe landing, the controller says to the pilot, “You have our apologies. We appreciate your professionalism.”

The National Transportation Safety Board described the incident as a “possible runway incursion and overflight involving airplanes from Southwest Airlines and FedEx.”

The FAA and the NTSB are investigating the near miss.

The Post has reached out to Southwest for comment.

A similar situation happened at New York City’s JFK airport last month when an American Airlines crossed onto the runway runway from an adjacent taxiway just as a Delta Air Lines plane was about to take off, forcing the Delta pilot to slam on the brakes  

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