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Agencies investigate averted plane crash at New York airport

JFK Airport (AP)
Maysoon Khan, AP

Officials are investigating a close call at a New York airport on Friday night between a plane that was crossing a runway and another that was preparing for take-off.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that a Delta Air Lines plane stopped safely about 1,000ft from where an American Airlines jet had crossed from an adjacent taxiway at John F Kennedy International Airport.

The FAA said on Saturday that it will investigate, while the National Transportation Safety Board is also carrying out inquiries.

The alert was raised after an air controller noticed the other plane, operated by American Airlines, crossing in front of the Delta flight, according to a recording by LiveATC, a website that monitors and posts flight communications.

Delta Air Lines’ departing Boeing 737 plane then came to a safe stop on the runway as the other crossed in front at around 8.45pm (1.45am on Saturday), the FAA said.

Brian Heale, a passenger on the Delta flight, said at first he thought the abrupt stop was a mechanical issue.

“There was this abrupt jerk of the plane, and everyone was sort of thrust forward from the waist,” he recalled. “There was an audible reaction when the brakes happened, like a gasp. And then there was a total silence for a couple of seconds.”

Mr Heale, who was traveling with his husband for their winter getaway to the Dominican Republic, said it was not until he was scrolling on Twitter the next day that he realized the gravity of what could have happened on that runway.

“The pilot made the call to only share information on a need-to-know basis, and that was absolutely the right call, because it would’ve been pandemonium,” he said.

John Cox, a retired pilot and professor of aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said he thought the controller “made a good call to reject the take-off”.

He said the rejected take-off safety manoeuvre, which is when pilots stop the aircraft and discontinue the take-off, is one they are “very, very familiar with”.

“Pilots practice rejected take-off almost every time they get to the simulator,” he said.

The Delta plane returned to the gate, where the 145 passengers deplaned and were provided overnight accommodations, a Delta spokesperson said. The flight to Santa Domingo Airport in the Dominican Republic took off Saturday morning.

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