‘Pedestrian’ Killed By Southwest Plane On Austin Runway


An unidentified man was struck and killed by a landing Southwest flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport late Thursday. The Southwest crew reported they saw someone on the runway as they touched down at 8:12 p.m. after a short hop from Dallas. Equipment was dispatched and found the dead man on Runway 17R. The 737-700 took significant damage to the left engine nacelle and Southwest said the crew tried to miss him. “The Southwest aircraft maneuvered to avoid an individual who appeared on runway 17R shortly after touchdown. The aircraft quickly came to a safe stop, and the Pilots reported the event to local air traffic controllers,” the statement said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene and it was later confirmed that the man did not have authorized access to the runways and ramp areas.

The airport characterized the incident as a “pedestrian fatality” and the airport confirmed that the man jumped a fence to get to the runway. “We are treating it as a security breach,” airport spokesman Bryce Dubee said. “This is the first time we’ve had a runway incursion like this. We have had the occasional security breach, but no one has ever gotten onto an active runway at the airport.” The TSA did a tour of the airport perimeter with airport security to try and spot weak spots.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Reminds me of folks that get killed by standing on train tracks here in FL.
    Different strokes for different folks – eh?

  2. I worked for a legacy carrier at ORD from 1970-1977 as a “ramp rat” progressing through the ranks and job responsibilities including being a ramp lead. Pedestrian interference of operations was quite often.

    On pushback of a 747, I was waiting for line maintenance to unhook the tow-bar, reconnect the steering linkage, and then reposition the massive tug. Because of the cockpit height, the ramp lead was a long way from the airplane. We had radios for communication with Operations. If there was any delays because of equipment issues, weather, or the beehive ground activity during the push-back, the ramp lead would keep Operations informed who were also on a direct communication link with ORD’s ground control. Since we had multiple departures happening at the same time, having Fat Albert, among the DC-9’s, DC-8’s, stretch 8’s, Convair 880’s, Convair 580’s, Fokker F-27’s and a ton of 727’s…cause any delays in getting away from the terminal could really hose up the “9 O’clock push” not only for us, but a bunch of other airlines and their multiple push-backs.

    Just as I was ready to give the signal to the Captain my wanded salute…a man came running out of the terminal area, from among a bunch of bag carts and containers, ran close enough to the 747’s idling engines to almost suck him in…demonstrated by his hair, clothes, and the instant leaning of his body toward the intakes as he sprinted toward the nose gear. Maintenance had already turned their backs to the airplane and was negotiating the tug back to the gate. So, they did not see this crazy person coming down the leading edge of the wing. I didn’t think he was actually going to make it to the nose gear. But somehow, he did not get ingested in the engines, and climbed up the nose gear, up the nose strut, and disappeared. By this time the captain had been vigorously motioning to me about wanting to get away from the inner taxiway area and join the conga line for departures. Plus, I had close to 20+ airliners of various shapes and sizes from other airlines trapped by our Fat Albert. It was quite a conversation between me and Operations, followed by a pronounced silence as they paused to contemplate what I was giving during this play by play account …and trying to figure out what they were going to say to ground control…which I found out had pronounced silent times as they processed this scene among themselves. From my vantage point, other than the passengers in the all glass gatehouse, I was the only employee to see this.

    Another issue was not only knowing there was a person now perched out of sight in the nose wheel well, it take a lot of thrust to get fully loaded, bulked out 747 moving. That crates a huge amount of jet-blast to try to reposition the airplane back into the gate. Plus, the jet-way was already being set up for a waiting DC-9. So, already it is completely out of position for a 747.

    I cannot simply walk away at this point as I am the eyes for the crew regarding ground traffic and other now very impatient inbound and out bound airlines who were now turning and burning copious amounts of Jet-A waiting for this huge airplane to do something one way or another. Do, you bring the airplane back into the gate? Who or what are you going to blow over getting back into the gate? Do, you shut down, fire up the APU, and get the tug reconnected and then pull it back in…which now becomes a challenge because of the odd angle and other maneuvers required that you didn’t plan for on a normal push-back? Being as far away as I was to be seen by the crew, I am causing an issue with the inner taxiway traffic. I certainly did not want to become FOD for another airliner either, nor getting blasted by impatient crews as they negotiated around me.

    It was a scene out of a “Keystone Cops” movie. Lastly, where actually was the man positioned within the nose wheel well, and how would he fare if anything within the nose gear moved? Plus, the added unknown was who wants to walk up to the nose gear well and deal with whatever threat this obviously deranged person might have, brandish, or potentially use for the first nose gear extraction specialist that someone was soon to become? It was a strange mix of funny, scary, frustrating, and nerve-wracking as this scene unfolded. I believe it was probably submitted to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, as the longest pushback in ORD’s history.

    Eventually, the airplane was shut down, AOU fired up, tug re-attached, and then moved the airplane away from the gate area with out doing much nose gear movement which basically ended up with this loaded 747 going back and forth a bunch of time in a relative straight line to allow other airplane to go around it. Once the all the other airplanes got out, and the inbounds got parked, this 747 sat out in the middle of the tarmac while Operations, the police, and ground control worked out a plan for a person to approach the airplane and start the process of getting this non-paying passenger out of the nose wheel well. Once they determined he was not a threat to the airplane, he still was hard to get out because he was very adamant about staying up in his perch. All total, I remember it was about a three hour ordeal from start to finish. The passengers stayed on board, lots of free drinks, Florida hotel vouchers, and another top off for fuel before that 747 departed. And I got a little over-time pay while I sat, stood, and paced out on the inner-taxiway as this story played out. Funny to think about it today, but was not funny when it was happening. Thankfully, no cameras, videos, or cell phones to record a potential YouTube video.