LAX Collision Narrowly Avoided

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There are high-tech systems run by highly trained people designed to prevent runway incursions, but it appears a lesson learned by most of us before we hit kindergarten prevented disaster at LAX on Thursday. According to the Calgary Herald, a series of miscommunications between controllers and the crew of a WestJet Boeing 737 resulted in the Canadian airliner getting ready to taxi across a runway and into the path of a Northwest Airlines A320 that was taking off. About 50 feet from the runway, the unidentified pilot of the 737 apparently looked both ways before crossing and saw the Airbus in time to query the ground controller about whether he really was cleared to cross the runway. The ground controller saw what was happening, the pilot hit the brakes and the runway incursion alarm went off in the tower just as the WestJet plane stopped. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Herald that the miscommunication began just after the WestJet landed on a scheduled flight from Calgary. He said a crewmember switched from tower to ground frequency before receiving preliminary taxi instructions from the tower. The pilot said something that led the ground controller to believe that he'd been cleared to cross the runway and the ground controller cleared him to the gate. The FAA and WestJet are investigating the incident. It's the eighth incursion at LAX this year.