Southwest Airlines jet avoids runway crash with ambulance during take-off by 173ft

Southwest Airlines
Felipe Sanchez /

A Southwest Airlines jet narrowly missed a collision with an ambulance during take-off at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

Details regarding the close call on January 12, 2023, were released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to the FAA an airport rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicle crossed the airport’s runway 15R without authorization from controllers.

A video recording of the incident published by DC News Now confirms that an airport controller gave clearance to the Southwest Boeing 737 to use 15R before the ambulance crosses.

The confusion between the vehicle driver and official appears to have arisen after the driver failed to hear an instruction to “hold short” from runway 15R.

Instead, the driver replies that he has crossed runway 10 and 15R.

“ARFF 439 you were supposed to hold short runway 15R,” the controller hits back.

“ARFF 439 I said, ‘crossing 15’,” the ambulance driver responds.

Clearly worried by the situation the pilot is heard on the recording asking, “What was the issue with ambulance there?”

The air traffic controller apologized and said: “We actually told them to hold shot […] We’re going to investigate.”

The FAA assigned the near-miss as a category B incident, meaning the was “significant potential for collision.”

The FAA estimated that the aircraft and vehicles closest horizontal separation occurred at 173-feet.

A spokesperson for BWI told the Mail Online that the airport had fully cooperated and made information available to the FAA regarding the incident.

“A BWI Marshall Airport Fire and Rescue Department firefighter and medic vehicle crossed a runway without air traffic control authorization,’” the statement read. “Based on review of the incident, new procedures were immediately implemented to help ensure safety and to prevent a similar incident in the future. Safety and security remain the highest priorities for BWI Marshall Airport.”

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