'Is That a Plane on the Runway?': Investigation Reveals Cause of Southwest Plane Near-Collision

A Southwest airplane and a SkyWest flight were both using the same San Diego runway at the same time

Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images Southwest Airlines at Hobby Airport in Houston
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images Southwest Airlines at Hobby Airport in Houston

An investigation into a 2021 incident involving a Southwest Airlines jet and a smaller plane in San Diego found that a missed transmission led to the two planes nearly colliding.

On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board released their findings on the incident.

“On June 10, 2021, about 1745 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) a runway incursion occurred at the San Diego international airport when a SkyWest flight was positioned on Runway 27 for takeoff at the same time a Southwest flight was cleared to land on the same runway,” the 18-page report began.

Related: NTSB, FAA Investigating Southwest and FedEx Cargo Planes That Almost Collided at Texas Airport

The report adds that both planes were given instructions to proceed down Runway 27. An air traffic controller told the SkyWest plane to “Line Up and Wait,” while the Southwest plane was given the all-clear to “go around on an approximate 0.84-mile final.”

“However, the transmission was blocked and the instruction was not heard by the crew,” the NTSB explained.

In audio recordings obtained during the investigation from LiveATC, the NTSB heard a Southwest pilot asking, "Ah, is that an airplane on the runway?"

<p>getty</p> A view of San Diego International Airport


A view of San Diego International Airport

With both planes in motion, the pilots operating the Southwest flight were instructed by air traffic controllers to “just off-set” the SkyWest plane instead of flying over it.

Under the direction of the air traffic controllers, the Southwest aircraft flew approximately 950 feet to the side and 200 feet above the SkyWest plane before making a landing at San Diego International Airport, the NTSB disclosed.

The report added that no passengers or crew members on either flight were injured and there was also no damage reported to either of the aircrafts.

As for the cause of the incident, the NTSB cited an air traffic controller being distracted by a helicopter flying into the area and a blocked radio call.

Another incident involving a recent near collision with a Southwest flight is now being investigated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). On Aug. 11, Southwest Airlines flight 2493 had a close call with a Cessna 560X at the San Diego International Airport.

Related: Near Collisions Between Planes Are on the Rise in the U.S. with 46 in July Alone: Report

Like the 2021 incident, both aircrafts were also cleared to use the same runway, NBC 7 San Diego reports. Luckily for everyone involved, automated video surveillance detected the situation and alerted the controller before an accident could occur.

<p>getty</p> A view of an air traffic controller's screen


A view of an air traffic controller's screen

“NTSB investigating Aug. 11 runway incursion and overflight at San Diego Int’l Airport that occurred when a Cessna 560X was cleared to land on Runway 27 and conflicted with a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 which was in a line up & wait on Runway 27,” the organization confirmed in a tweet.

They added, “No injuries or damage reported.”

“A preliminary review of the event showed that an air traffic controller instructed the pilot of a Cessna Citation business jet to discontinue landing because a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 was still on the runway awaiting clearance to depart,” the FAA said.

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They continued, "The controller had previously cleared the Citation to land on Runway 27 and then instructed Southwest Flight 2493 to taxi onto that runway and wait for instructions to depart. The facility’s automated surface surveillance system alerted the controller about the developing situation.”

About a week later, a Southwest flight that was traveling from Houston, Texas to Cancun, Mexico had to make an emergency landing after a mechanical issue caused flames to shoot out from its right wing.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE at the time, a spokesperson for the airline said, "The aircraft landed safely and was taken out of service for review.” Another aircraft was able to continue the flight and get the passengers to their destination in Cancun.

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