U.S. safety board probes United runway incursion at Honolulu airport

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Wednesday that it will open an investigation into a Jan. 23 runway incursion at Honolulu Airport that occurred when a United Boeing 777 crossed a runway and conflicted with a Cessna 208B landing on the same runway.

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is also investigating, said an air traffic controller told the United flight to stop on a taxiway before reaching the runway, but the United flight crossed it as the Cessna cargo plane was landing. The Cessna came to a stop about 1,170 feet from where the United jet was crossing, the FAA said. No damage or injuries were reported.

United referred questions about the incident to the NTSB.

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Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said the recent incidents have prompted him to order a safety team review and hold a safety summit next month.

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said last week in an interview the board has opened investigations into 18 runway incursion incidents since 2013, including two from last summer that remain under investigation.


Last week, Homendy said a FedEx Boeing 767 cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines 737-700 that nearly collided on Feb. 4 in Austin, Texas were “probably under 100 feet (30.5 meters) vertically from each other.” 

The FedEx plane had been set to land on a runway on which a Southwest Airlines jet was also cleared to depart. Homendy said it could have resulted in “terrible tragedy.”

Homendy said it was too early to say if there was any trend among the recent runway incursion incidents but she noted “it just takes one” to have a devastating tragedy.

Homendy said another runway incursion last month at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in which a Delta Air Lines plane came to a safe stop after air traffic controllers noticed an American Airlines Boeing 777 had crossed from an adjacent taxiway could also have been tragic.

On Friday, the NTSB issued subpoenas to the flight crew of the American Airlines plane after they refused to be interviewed on the basis that their statements would be recorded for transcription.

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