US Launches Probe into Near-Miss Incident Between Southwest, FedEx Jets

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is set to hold a hearing on June 6th, 2024, to investigate the near-collision between a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines jet in Austin, Texas, in February 2023. The incident raised serious concerns about aviation safety in the US, particularly amid staffing shortages in air traffic control. According to reports, the two planes came dangerously close, with estimates suggesting a mere 115 feet (35 meters) separating them. 


This near-miss could have resulted in a catastrophic accident, as NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy acknowledged, calling it a potential "terrible tragedy." The incident occurred in poor visibility conditions with fog obscuring the runway. The FedEx Boeing 767's first officer initially spotted a single light, followed by the silhouette of the Southwest Boeing 737-700, forcing them to take evasive action and abort their landing. Investigators believe a crucial factor in the incident was air traffic control mistakenly clearing both planes to land on the same runway. 

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The NTSB hearing aims to determine the exact cause of the near-miss, including potential issues with communication, visibility, or air traffic control procedures. This event wasn't isolated. 2023 saw at least half a dozen similar near-misses, highlighting vulnerabilities within the US aviation system. The strain on understaffed air traffic control has been pinpointed as a contributing factor.


The upcoming hearing is a critical step toward ensuring such incidents don't occur again. The NTSB's findings will likely lead to recommendations for improving safety protocols, communication between pilots and air traffic control, and potentially staffing adjustments within the air traffic control system. The outcome of this investigation holds significant weight for the future of US aviation safety.

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