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Airliners nearly collide at JFK; FAA investigating

June 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two airliners carrying hundreds of passengers nearly collided at takeoff at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport this week. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

JFK Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, with hundreds of planes landing and taking off every day.

Radio transmissions recorded the exchange between the tower and the pilot. The controller is heard frantically saying, "Cancel take off plans, cancel take off plans."

Lufthansa Flight 411 screeched to a stop after hearing the controller's direction. Another aircraft, an EgyptAir flight, had mistakenly entered the runway heading in the wrong direction.

A collision at takeoff speeds would have been catastrophic for passengers on both planes.

The Lufthansa flight came to such an abrupt stop that the Airbus A340's brakes overheated. The pilot was forced to return to the gate, where several of the 286 passengers opted not to continue with the trip.

The radio transmissions indicate controllers were also shaken by the incident. One unidentified pilot is heard saying, "I thought those were coming together ... that was quite a show. We thought it was going to be a short career."

The FAA is investigating what happened at the airport. At this point, it appears the EgyptAir flight did not follow proper instructions.

A spokesperson for the agency says the flight was supposed to turn onto a different taxiway and instead turned onto the runway Lufthansa flight 411 was using for takeoff.

Despite the aircraft's abrupt stop, no one was hurt. Authorities are still not sure how close the two aircraft actually got.

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