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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 21:01 IST

Planes narrowly avoid collision on runway in Colorado after pilot's last-second maneuver

A near head-on runway collision in Colorado last year was narrowly averted due to miscommunication in the air.

Manasvi Asthana
Representative image.
Representative image. | Image:Unsplash
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A near head-on runway collision in Colorado last year was narrowly averted due to miscommunication in the air. Thankfully, tragedy was averted by a last-second maneuver executed by a JetBlue pilot. While the plane sustained damage, there were no reported injuries.

The captain of the Beechcraft B300 King Air expressed concern over the air, saying, "I hope you don't hit us," as the aircraft descended toward runway 10 at Yampa Valley Airport. At that moment, a JetBlue Airbus A320 was in the process of preparing to take off, as detailed in a report by the National Transportation Safety Board published this week.

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The report detailing the near-catastrophe marks the conclusion of a nearly two-year investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the incident that occurred on January 22, 2022. During this incident, JetBlue Airways Flight 1748 incurred significant damage in a tail strike as the pilot maneuvered to avoid the potential collision.

The back of the JetBlue plane smashed into the ground as it increased thrust and took off steeply from the runway as the King Air plane came within just 2.2 nautical miles away from the airport, video shows, Fox Business reported.

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According to the report, both aircraft had synchronized their flight plans with the Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) since the Yampa Valley airport lacks its own air traffic control.

The UNICOM operator issued a caution to both aircraft, notifying them of "multiple aircraft" in the airspace around the airport.

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However, JetBlue believed King Air was much farther away, about “8 or 9 miles out,” and was going to land on runway 10 behind them and decided to continue with take off.

In their communications, the King Air mentioned both "runway 10" and "runway 28," but the aircraft was, in fact, intending to land on the runway in front of the JetBlue plane.

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“About 20 seconds after JetBlue started their take off on runway 10, the flight crew of the King Air asked JetBlue if they were going to do a quick turn-out, to which they replied, ‘yes sir,’” as per reports.

“Concurrent to this conversation, JetBlue’s captain pitched the airplane up, 24 knots before rotation speed, to avoid the approaching King Air and subsequently struck the tail of the airplane on the runway’s surface,” the agency said.

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The report found that the captain raised the plane’s nose quicker than normal “due to his surprise about encountering head-on landing traffic.”

The JetBlue plane took off then quickly turned right in the air out of the way of traffic.

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After the tail strike, the JetBlue crew continued their departure heading towards Fort Lauderdale Florida before eventually confirming the incident around 16,000 feet.

After climbing roughly another 10,000 feet, they were ordered to land immediately so the plane could be inspected for damage, and diverted to Denver.

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The plane suffered “substantial” damages and no injuries were reported.

The NTSB determined the incident was the result of poor communication.
 

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Published December 16th, 2023 at 21:01 IST

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