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Close Call Between Planes At Logan Airport

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Ground radar images show JetBlue 1264 approaching the runway where JetBlue 417 was taking off. (credit: NATCA)

Ground radar images show JetBlue 1264 approaching the runway where JetBlue 417 was taking off. (credit: NATCA)

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BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Newly released video and audio from Boston’s Logan International Airport shows a close call between a taxiing plane and a flight that was taking off. It happened the night before Thanksgiving, a very busy time at Logan.

A quick-thinking air traffic controller is heard urgently telling a JetBlue flight to “hold” just before it entered an active runway where another plane was speeding towards take-off.

Flight 1264 from Austin, Texas landed safely on Nov. 24 with 91 passengers onboard, but while taxiing to the gate the pilot inadvertently took a right instead of turning left, according to JetBlue.

In audio recordings the air traffic controller can be heard saying “JetBlue hold, JetBlue 1264 hold right there. JetBlue 1264, hold, hold!” Ground radar images show the plane stopping just short of the runway where JetBlue 417 was quickly approaching.

Raw Video: Air Traffic Control recordings with ground radar images

“At no time did the flight enter an active runway without clearance from ATC (Air Traffic Control),” JetBlue said in a written statement. “The processes put in place by the airline, the pilots and ATC are designed to prevent and mitigate inadvertent errors. The system worked.”

“That was a save for an air traffic controller and it was a good one,” said Matt McCluskey, president of the air traffic controllers union for the Boston tower.   The controller who made that save was unavailable for comment. His union says he has 32 years experience, 20 of which he has spent at Logan.

“I think that the controller was on top of his job. He was doing what he needed to do and when he came out and said it, he stopped talking to another aircraft to come back to that one and it was just an air traffic controller on top of his game. He possibly averted a possible collision or something on that runway,” said McCluskey. 

WBZ-TV’s Ron Sanders reports.

“That air traffic controlled was looking out that window, saw the aircraft turn the wrong way on the runway and he stopped him prior to that active runway with the departing aircraft,” said McCluskey. “The human factor was there and without that human factor, with a computer telling you to do that or something, I don’t think it would have had the same outcome.”

McCluskey said in all likelihood the passengers aboard JetBlue 1264 had no idea their flight had turned the wrong way or what the air traffic controller did to stop it.  But he said the controller made an “excellent save.”

FAA spokesman Jim Peters said his agency has not done any analysis to determine how far apart the planes were from each other.  After the FAA’s investigation is complete, it would have several options: require re-training, seek suspension or revocation of the pilot’s license or take no action.

The controller who told flight 1264 to hold lives in New Hampshire and is within a year from retirement. His union is recommending him for a safety award.

WBZ-TV’s Ron Sanders contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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