CHICAGO (WCCO/WBBM) – The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a near-collision last month at Midway International Airport involving a plane arriving from the Twin Cities.
The NTSB says a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 arriving from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Dec. 1 nearly crashed into a private Learjet which was taking off at the same time.
A preliminary NTSB report on Tuesday said the Southwest pilot was told by an air traffic controller to cross runway 31R on its way to the gate, but another controller had apparently just given a Learjet permission to take off on 31R, as reported by WBBM in Chicago.
The Southwest co-pilot saw the Learjet approach and yelled to the pilot to stop, according to the NTSB. The 737, which was carrying 85 passengers and crew members, halted at the edge of the runway.
The Southwest crew told investigators that the Learjet flew directly over it, but NTSB investigators estimate that the Learjet crossed 287 feet overhead and 62 feet in front of the 737.
Recordings of the communications with air traffic control reveal the frustration of the Southwest pilots.
“What technology clears us on the runway when there’s a plane taking off?” the pilot asked air traffic controllers.
It’s a question the air traffic controllers at Midway did not answer.
“Contact ground please,” replied the tower controller.
WBBM’s calls to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents the tower controllers, were not immediately returned. The FAA referred comment to the NTSB.
Southwest issued a statement in which it said it is “fully cooperating” with the NTSB on the investigation but, because it is an open investigation, said it cannot provide additional comment.
“Safety is our top priority and we will continue to support the NTSB as the investigation process unfolds,” said Southwest spokesperson Brandy King.