Delta Airlines flight 1943 narrowly avoided hitting an American Airlines plane on the tarmac at New York’s John F Kennedy airport on Friday, January 13, after some confusion in communication between the flights and the air traffic control room. 

At the time of the incident, Delta’s Boeing 737 was traveling at 115mph down a runway at New York’s JFK airport when the American Airlines flight to the UK crossed from an adjacent runway right in front of the departing plane.

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When an air traffic controller noticed the dire situation, he took swift action to keep the airlines from colliding.

“S***! F***! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” he said in an audio recording of Air Traffic Control communications. The Delta pilot was forced to hit the brake, traveling another 661 feet before he came to a complete stop. There were just 1,000 feet of space between the two flights. 

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In the traffic control room recording that was made by LiveATC, a website that monitors and posts flight communications, the controller could be heard saying next, “Delta 1943 say intentions.” The Delta plane was then told to taxi despite the plane being cleared for takeoff previously. 

The control room then instructed the American Airlines flight crew to call a phone number “due to possible pilot deviation.” The pilot of that plane then asks: “The last clearance we were given, we were cleared to cross is that correct?” An air traffic controller responds, “I guess we’ll listen to the tapes, but you were uh supposed to depart 4L. You’re currently holding short of runway 31L.” 

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The tapes showed that air traffic control had indeed told the American Airlines flight to cross “runway 31L at Kilo.” But the plane instead crossed runway 4 Left at Juliet, crossing directly in front of the Delta flight at around 8:45 pm.

After the incident, the Delta flight was forced to return to the gate and did not take off again until the next morning. The American Airlines flight arrived in the UK on time.

Donall Brian Healy a passenger on the Delta flight, told NBC News that his fellow passengers screamed in terror when the plane grounded to a stop. 

“We’re talking split seconds here, but the initial cognition is this is not going to end well,” Donall Brian Healy told NBC News. “There were vocal reactions. A few screams when the plane first started slowing then total silence.”

Healy said the pilot actually told the passengers that another plane had passed in front of them, forcing him to abort the takeoff.

The incident is being investigated by both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.