The NTSB’s preliminary report into the runway overflight incident in Austin last month doesn’t offer much new detail, but it does punctuate just how close a FedEx Boeing 767 and Southwest 737 came on that foggy runway. A graphic accompanying the report shows the position of the two aircraft on a timeline and at one point the graphic suggests the 767 barely cleared the 737’s tail in the early morning of Feb. 4, although “the closest proximity has not yet been determined.” It also shows the two planes virtually paced each other down Runway 18 as the FedEx plane climbed for a go-around and the Southwest flight and its 128 occupants accelerated for takeoff.
The report also clarifies the situational awareness of both crews and the tower controller. The Southwest flight was cleared for takeoff when the 767 was three miles out but it didn’t begin its takeoff roll until the FedEx flight was just 0.7 miles from the threshold. The FedEx crew spotted the 737 less than 1,500 ahead as it crossed the approach end and hit the gas before broadcasting “Southwest abort.” The Southwest crew did not respond but told the NTSB they heard the call when they were going between 80 knots indicated and V1. They continued the takeoff and headed for Cancun but veered right from runway heading as the tower ordered the FedEx crew to make a left turn. By the end of the runway the 767 was about 1,000 feet above the 737.