Fog so dense that only plane silhouettes are visible, a takeoff that occurred later than usual, these are just some details that the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has uncovered in its ongoing investigation into a near collision incident involving a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines aircraft.
The NTSB released an almost 3,000-page transcript of interviews that took place as part of its investigation into the February 2023 incident which occurred at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Texas.
On February 4, 2023, a FedEx Boeing 767F, registered as N297FE and operating flight FDX 1432, was coming to land at AUS. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-700, registered as N7827A, was about to takeoff on flight SWA 708 for Cancun International Airport (CUN).
The NTSB’s initial findings confirmed that it was the FedEx pilot, not air traffic controllers, who detected the problem and told the Southwest plane to abort its take off.
The recently-released document reveals that Damian Campbell, the air traffic controller on duty, told investigators that he expected the Southwest aircraft to take off more quickly — before the incoming FedEx plane reached the same runway.
Campbell said that in his four years’ experience as an air traffic controller at AUS airport, Southwest planes usually took off as soon as they received permission.
Campbell said that in hindsight, he could have made the Southwest aircraft wait.
Weather factors were also detailed in the interview, with Campbell saying the early morning fog on February 4, 2023 was so dense that he could not see the Southwest aircraft.
“You couldn’t see anything. You couldn’t see the approach end of the runway, we couldn’t see our turnoff points,” Campbell said.
Investigators also probed into other factors such as crew sleep and rest schedule, training and experience, and protocols on how certain situations are handled.
The full manuscript can be read on the NTSB site. The investigation continues.