Federal investigators have ruled that the pilot of a charter jet took off without permission, creating athat was preparing to land on an intersecting runway at Boston’s Logan International Airport on February 27.
The final National Transportation Safety Board report was released Thursday. It included a video screen capture from the JetBlue cockpit showing just how close the two planes came to colliding.
The NTSB report says the charter jet got permission to line up and wait at the intersecting runway, but instead, the private Learjet’s flight crew started taking off without permission, causing the close call.
NTSB investigators say a ground detection system alerted the control tower that something wasn’t right, so a “go-around” was issued in time.
The JetBlue pilots were able to pull up and circle around and land safely.
Aviation experts such as MIT Aeronautics & Astronautics Professor John Hansman say that’s how important that detection system is.
“I think it was a screw-up. Humans and the system will make errors occasionally,” Hansman told CBS News Boston. “We design the system in order to have levels of redundancy and support to catch those errors. I think this is an example of the system working like it’s supposed to.”
The pilot of the Learjet in this case told the safety board the cold Boston weather somehow affected him, saying in a statement, “I cannot understand what happened to me during the clearance, the only thing that comes to my mind is that the cold temperature in Boston affected me, I was not feeling completely well and had a stuffed nose. My apologies.”
Veteran pilot Patrick Smith, of askthepilot.com, called it a failure of Piloting 101.
“When it comes to this sort of thing, you have layers of safety. You have technology acting in the manner of this runway incursion avoidance system and you also have pilots doing what they’re supposed to do and what they’re expected to do,” said Smith.
At the time of the incident, CBS News Boston spoke with a passenger from the Jet Blue flight.
“You do sit and there and say, ‘Oh my gosh — I have a 13-year-old, I have a 15-year-old, I’m married, how close did I come to not seeing them again?'” Adam Johnson said.
No one was hurt in the incident.
The NTSB has acknowledged the need to invest more in aviation safety technology like the system at Logan.
“These sorts of incidents have a way of riling up people’s fears, and I think it’s important to remind people that commercial flying is statistically safer than it’s ever been,” said Smith.
The close calls led the Federal Aviation Administration to convene ato brainstorm ways to prevent planes from coming too close together.
The last fatal crash involving a U.S. airline was in 2009.