Takeoff Aborted In ‘Abundance Of Caution’


There were some frayed nerves and shredded tires but no injuries when a New Orleans tower controller ordered a Delta A321 to abort its takeoff on Friday night. “An air traffic controller canceled the takeoff clearance for Delta Air Lines Flight 1482 after a Learjet landed at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and made a wrong turn onto a taxiway,” the FAA said in a statement to AVweb. “The Learjet never crossed the hold short line. The controller canceled the takeoff clearance for the Delta Airbus A321 out of an abundance of caution. This incident occurred around 7:45 p.m. local time on March 31.”

On the ATC tape the Lear was cleared to land on the same runway that the Delta plane was headed for to depart to Salt Lake City. Two controllers directed the Lear to its destination on the airport, but the transmissions from the Lear were garbled so it’s not clear if the crew understood them. A ground controller ordered the crew to “Stop!” just before the tower controller cleared the A321 for takeoff and then canceled the clearance.

The tower controller apologized to the Delta crew and offered to expedite their trip back to the end of the runway, but the A321 wasn’t going anywhere. Passengers reported hearing loose flaps of rubber on the tires flapping on the tarmac as they taxied. The flight was canceled and passengers delayed as the airline found them other flights. The incident came a few days after the latest in a series of directives from the FAA stressing the “need for continued vigilance and attention to mitigation of safety risks.”

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.

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  1. Maybe so, but you just can’t order a transport category airplane to abort a takeoff without consequences. Any high speed abort especially close to V1 speed is the most dangerous maneuver next to a single engine go-around a flight crew can do. If controllers are getting so jumpy because of past incidents or overwork, we are setting up ourselves for a disaster. That Lear, as the article reported, never crossed a hold short line even though it may have turned onto the wrong taxiway. Maybe it is time for the FAA to slow things down a little, they seem to be already doing that with all of the traffic metering going on especially when weather acts up. If a controller issues an abort during takeoff after V1, it may not be possible to stop in the remaining distance. The fact that a set of tires were torn up in the reported abort is not surprising. Even if the tires had not been damaged, there still may have been a cool down requirement for the brakes which would have still required waiting, or having maintenance check them out.

  2. With the LJ moving in the wrong direction towards the hold-short and without intelligible responses from it, the controller cannot assume it will stop. If the controller waits until the incursing(?) aircraft actually crosses the hold-short line, it might be too late to prevent a collision.

  3. “Abundance of caution” – maybe. “Just the right amount” of caution is maybe a better fit. The episode seems to show how the system is meant to work. As mentioned, if the controllers couldn’t be sure about communications with the Lear Jet crew, they had no way of knowing with any certainty where the Lear Jet was headed. But maybe slowing things down a little could have avoided the whole thing.

  4. Now that we have electronic data transfer to the cockpit avionics via ADS-B in, it’s time to start working on electronic clearance delivery to the avionics.

    A landing clearance would include a taxi route to the first stopping point. A new clearance would need to be transmitted for a taxiing aircraft to proceed farther. The same would need to be true when taxiing out to depart. The taxi route would show up on the moving map or geo referenced airport diagrams. It would be very clear where to taxi and when to stop until further clearance is received.

    A lot of logistics would need to be worked out and ADS-B transmitters installed at all towered airports. Personally, I’ve never gotten lost in the air, but have been a little confused at times on the ground. We humans need all of the help we can get.

    • Yes, but… The last thing I want is direction to be heads down reading textual information — AT ANY TIME when moving or even contemplating putting power to it and either crossing or leaving the ramp. Do we need a third pilot now reading the textual material anlod for the PF and PM?? Nuts!

  5. Funny story to pass on. Years ago we were taxiing our Hawker 800XP to the FBO, Qualitron, located south of the terminal and east of rwy 15L at Houston Intercontinental (George Bush – KIAH). It was night and raining so visibility was limited. We landed on 8R which put us at the east end of the terminal ramp when we cleared the runway. I was very familiar with the airport, but had always taxied to the FBO around the west end of the terminal ramp. This night we were directed around the east end of the terminal and west along the south ramp. As we cleared the runway onto a taxiway and were given taxi instructions, all I could see thru my rain covered windscreen was blackness and blue lights but no clue which way to go. So I asked my Co to help me out, but he said he was having trouble reading the Jepp airport diagram(paper). So I asked didn’t he have some glasses (readers)? He said yeah; but they’re in my briefcase in the baggage area. So I handed him my glasses and said, here, try these. Meanwhile, since I didn’t know which way to go, I stopped the airplane, but failed to inform ground control (my bad!). So ground says, “Hawker 800xx, are you stopped out there?” “Uh, yeah. We’re having a little trouble reading our airport diagram.” “Well, you’ve got an RJ right behind you!” Without missing a beat, the RJ pilot jumps in and says, “Don’t worry Ground; we’re keeping an eye on him.”

  6. Interesting scenario with no injuries. I hope there is a serious discussion of the events as to MSY’s 10K or 7K runway, below or at V1, what are the captain’s options for a cancelled TO clearance and at what runway marker the controller should or should not attempt to reverse a clearance.
    There are three incursion hot spots at NOLA, depending on TO direction most aircraft would be second segment passing them.

  7. Here is an idea, all taxi clearances REQUIRE to hold short of all runways – no exceptions. So as a pilot, when I am am entering a runway, I am required to get another clearance to cross.

    This might be nuisance and more back and forth, but if everyone knows that ALL RUNWAYS require another CLEARANCE before entering. It’s analogous to requiring takeoff clearance when holding short of runway. Runways require additional clearances whether crossing or taking off.

    • That is currently to way taxi clearances are done now. Change was made several years ago that now requires a specific clearance to cross any runway.