A miscommunication in the air nearly led to a head-on runway crash in Colorado last year — but tragedy was averted after a last-second maneuver by a JetBlue pilot damaged the plane but caused no casualties.
“I hope it doesn’t hit us,” the captain of the Beechcraft B300 King Air said on air as it descended toward Runway 10 at Yampa Valley Airport — where the JetBlue Airbus A320 was preparing to take off. According to the National Transportation Safety Board report Published this week.
The report on the near-disaster comes at the conclusion of a nearly two-year NTSB investigation into the Jan. 22, 2022, incident, during which JetBlue Airways Flight 1748 sustained significant damage in a tail strike to avoid collision.
Video shows that the back of the JetBlue plane hit the ground as it gained momentum and took off sharply from the runway while the King Air plane approached just 2.2 nautical miles from the airport. Fox Business reported.
The report found that both planes coordinated with Denver Air Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) on their flight plans, as Yampa Valley Airport does not have its own air traffic control.
The global communications operator Unicom warned both planes of the presence of “multiple aircraft” in the skies surrounding the airport.
However, JetBlue thought the King Air was too far away, about “8 or 9 miles” away, and was going to land on runway 10 behind it and decided to continue the takeoff.
In communications, King Air mentioned both “Runway 10” and “Runway 28” — but the plane was actually intended to land on the runway in front of JetBlue.
“Approximately 20 seconds after JetBlue began takeoff on Runway 10, the King Air crew asked JetBlue if they would conduct a fast takeoff, to which they responded, ‘Yes, sir,’” the NTSB report says.
“Concurrently with this conversation, the JetBlue captain raised the plane 24 knots ahead of roll speed, to avoid the approaching King Air, and then struck the plane’s tail on the runway surface,” the agency said.
The report found that the pilot raised the plane’s nose faster than usual “due to his surprise at encountering the landing movement head-on.”
The JetBlue plane took off and then made a quick turn in the air out of the way of traffic.
Following the tail strike, the JetBlue crew continued their departure, heading toward Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before the accident was eventually confirmed at approximately 16,000 feet.
After climbing nearly another 10,000 feet, they were ordered to land immediately so the plane could be inspected for damage and diverted to Denver.
The plane sustained “significant” damage, and no injuries were reported.
The NTSB determined that the incident was the result of miscommunication.
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