NTSB Releases New Data On AUS Near-Collision


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released new details in its ongoing investigation of a near-collision between a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and a FedEx Boeing 767 cargo plane at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Texas, earlier this year.

The agency collected roughly 3,000 pages of transcripts from interviews with the involved pilots and controllers and other factual data from the incident, which occurred on Feb. 4. The close call is one of several the NTSB has been investigating this year.

Findings confirmed it was the FedEx pilot, not ATC, who narrowly averted disaster when he saw the silhouette of the Southwest aircraft and called for the go-around. In the interview with investigators, FedEx Captain Hugo Carvajal III said he was “annoyed” and “perplexed” when the controller cleared Southwest to take off from the runway he was approaching, noting his initial reaction was an expletive to the effect of “What’s he doing?” according to a report from AP.

Other details revealed Damian Campbell, a U.S. Navy veteran and controller for 13 years, was on duty at the time of the incident. Campbell said he had been on a mandatory six-day workweek. During questioning with investigators, Campbell noted the dense fog that morning and said he could not see the Southwest aircraft from the tower. Campbell told investigators he anticipated a quicker takeoff by the Southwest crew before the FedEx aircraft reached the runway. But in hindsight, he said, he could have made the Southwest aircraft wait.

A probable cause has not yet been released but is expected early next year. 

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. Wow, a controller for 13 years? navy and faa. this guy needs to go back to the faa academy and start over. 1/4 mi vis in fog. cleared swa for takeoff with fedex on a 3 mi final. couldnt see either plane . no asde x. just a twr radar display. admitted that he didnt hear the swa spool up. then seperate the planes and do something! swa took longer to taxi and line up due to the fog. this is incredible incompetence. that the swa and fedex pilots had to go thru all the reports, interviews, scrutiny and bs is pathetic.
    the fed ex capt saved the day , wow this was close 100 ft. subtract the landing gear of fedex and tail height of the swa, more like fifty feet of clearance.
    reading the reports in the ntsb report on the facility and logs.
    looks like this guy damien campbell 43, on a overtime day shift. all alone in the twr cab, all positions combined up. including cic, controller in charge. nobody to supervise
    this nucklehead . a sad state of affairs.

    who am i to judge ?
    a 38 yr veteran controller
    10 yrs usaf atc
    28 yrs faa retired

    twrs, tracons, center. cpc, flm (supe), acting mgr of a up/down

    the whole state of atc faa is on the verge of a castrophe.
    i retired 7 yrs ago at the magic 56
    was glad to go
    had enough of stupidity of faa mgmt all the way to the top
    in the last 15 yrs utter stupidity of hiring candidates, todays world of passing everyone
    sending untrainable candidates to top level 12 facilities, burning out controllers trying to train them, one error and you lose your chance of any bonus for the year.
    passing people when they should be given their termination papers.
    hiring off the street, checking boxes instead of ability. should be hiring the ex military controllers first, same book same rules, faa 7110.65 , then the cti candidates.
    why hire off the street? this has all been reported on here before, faa hr-1 now retired,
    need to diversify the twr cabs tracons and centers. what a failure.
    when i started my career in 1980 the military atc academys very tough. faa oke city academy very tough. now anyone gets a diploma cert and trophy.
    what have we become? this is a sad state of affairs.
    many atc of my generation are saddened to see what has become of a great career.

    their was recently another near castrophe nov10 at jfk. a pilatus pc-12 was supposed to be on final rwy 22R, instead it was ontop of an american a320 on final rwy 22L.
    u need to control the planes from push back to pulling into the gate. be proactive,
    insure seperation. if you see something amiss, FIX IT!
    the have a radar display in the twr cab jfk. they should have caught this right away.
    instead it was the american capt who was complaining to atc about the wayward pc-12
    above him. saw it on his tcas, prob got an alert.
    the basic tenet of atc is to give instructions to seperate the planes. follow thru, insure
    it is working out, if not take more CORRECTIVE action until the situation is resolved.
    this is why you get paid. hearback/readback insure the pilots are complying,
    and for gods sakes seperate the planes and insure safety for all.

    • Wow, I enjoy the AVweb community when articles like this are reported with a synopsis of the documented FACTS. Then, a member with an obviously qualified background offers a thoughtful and detailed response… NOW, if only an upper-level FAA Administrator would take Michael’s observations to heart. Consider the lives it will save. I say “will save” because, as he noted, it’s only a matter of time until disaster strikes.

      I have NO experience in the ATC arena, except as a consumer (Pilot) who depends on their training and expertise. However, as a PIC, I have encountered a few incidents when I felt compelled to challenge the decision/directions from a controller. We all must remember that at the end of the flight, our responsibility is to ensure our and our passengers’ safety. Keeping our eyes open. Our heads are focused on the task at hand, and remembering to Communicate, Challenge, or Clarify will go a long way to avoiding becoming a headline or statistic.

  2. I have to say am appalled at the total lack of understanding and the gregariousness of all those who jump on making comments, whether qualified or not, in the know or now. Just Culture and basic safety principles are totally unknown here. Everyone is complaining that media or lawyers are harsh, they don’t understand aviation, yet when something happens, it’s the aviators (or pretended aviators) who are the first to hang their peers.

    I’m also appalled that the names of these people have been made public. How does that help safety? Or anyone else, except ruining their lives being now thrown to the executioners?

    • And there are the NATCA cut and paste buzz words.

      “except ruining their lives being now thrown to the executioners?”

      What about all the ruined lives that were all but lost until the pilot saved the day?

      Why aren’t you calling the controller out for accountability and professionalism? Why didn’t the employee adhere to the contract about Fatigue mitigation? Why didn’t the controller adhere to the policy about reporting to work ready to perform?

      There are many issues that are contributory to this near catastrophic collision. However, ultimately it was the controller and the PIC responsibility to ensure safety. That is why they are out in the public. Fortunately fgor the lives of many, the pilot wasn’t a contributing factor.

  3. Michael v. Radu here… When so many lives are at stake, lack of “understanding” and “just culture (?)” by apparently qualified commentators doesn’t seem misplaced. Maybe we could use of tell-it-like-it-is now and then. Regarding publishing the names, Hugo gets the kudos he deserves and Damian the looks and “WTF dude” reactions that he brought on upon himself. Good job Amelia.

  4. Michael, you are not the only retired atc that tells this story. Also, Radu C. Freedom of information with public entities. I agree with operational learning. But to do this we need to find out at what point (or points) did we have the failure(s). At the end of the day we need to fail Safely with no one getting hurt. Sometimes we need to break the whole thing down and rebuild it. I know our current Transportation Sect. is an easy target, and I agree he should shoulder a ton of blame. But why are we putting to pasture some our greatest assets at 57??? Same as ATP pilots at 65. I flew with my dad when he was 70 and his skills were so far better than mine at 40. If they are medically qualified and yes, we need to add mental health in the mix other than answering a few questions. But a complete overhaul and not just giving trophy to everyone would be a good start. Michael has hit the nail on the head and his experience needs to be recognized and utilized.

  5. These incidents that we chat about are just the “known” high profile issues. How many issues “get the broom” and how many go undetected? I can tell you about two near fatal collisions involving regional jet and a snow plow (March 2021). As a safety team rep I filed a report because the airport management and airline didn’t. Six months after my report I received a letter from the FAA explaining there was no problems because no one violated any regulations! No kidding.

    In this thread the comments regard lack of experience of ATC, pilots, etc. These are valid comments. How about lack of experience of those doing the investigating and those making, or interpreting, the rules? How about the airport operators. Not much experience there in many cases especially rural America.

    Would you believe that the driver of a snow plow on a part 139 airport is not required, by the feds, to be drug screened!

  6. After training and flying as a Naval Aviator, then thirty years with a major airline, one consistent failure that I have noticed, particularly within general aviation, is that ATC issues instructions. The only instruction that I can think of that ATC can give, is NOT to do something. Everything else is a CLEARANCE, for the PIC to accept or not. Experienced pilots shoul be consistently listening to clearances given to OTHER aircraft.

    There seems to be no doubt that this controller made a mistake, however, both pilots involved should have been critically monitoring clearances to other aircraft, particularly those on approach. Similarly, the FedEx aircraft should have confirmed the clearance of the other aircraft before it became an issue.

    The bottom line is that in this case, although it seems that the major error lies with the controller, (regardless of secondary excuses,) neither of the pilots is blameless.

    There have been several incidents and accidents where pilots have blindly accepted the controllers clearance as an instruction rather than a clearance for the PIC to consider.

  7. I agree completely with Michael R. I too am a retired controller after 32 years (4 years AF) and worked a multitude of facilities. The FAA went to “train to succeed” around the turn of the century when Marion Blakey became administrator. Her philosophy was anyone can be a controller given enough training. Washing people out became a thing of the past. She also said that managing people was managing people. This meant that the Tower/Tracon/Center Chiefs no longer had to have experience as a controller at the type of facility that they were in charge. This is like having a Chief Pilot that is not a pilot!
    I now fly Citation 680 and for the most part I would say the controllers do a good job, but around 20-30% of the time I am just stunned by the poor level of service provided.

  8. Hi all,
    im a daily reader of avweb. i rarely post. there are many atc that post, still working or retired, we all are spot on and in unison in thought. the atc system
    has been struggling since 3 aug 1981. 60 hr work weeks , rotating shift work, lots of overtime, short staffed. one controller on duty, what could go wrong?
    how about a bathroom break, lunch break, go get a cup of coffee, splash some water in your face to wake up and go back to the control room to slay the dragon again.
    every day different, winds, weather, airport conditions outages etc, staffing, new rules, procedures, dealing with mgmt and the union. the truth is always in the middle,
    somewhere between mgmt and the union stance. btw im a believer of natca, was a member, although like every union has their own agenda. they protect everyone , even the duds.
    we signed up for this, we knew what we getting into. this was our life’s calling.
    like may other careers, nurses, doctors, police, fire, ems. every sunday every holiday, rotating shift work, short staffing. kudos to those too in our great country who keep every one safe.
    to fix this situation at the faa:
    no more unlimited training hours.
    the faa academy needs to toughen up
    70% or below, u fail. like the old days.
    facilitys need to toughen up, strict adherance to alloted training hours.
    if u fail , u fail, if previously certified at a atc facility go back.
    hire first military qualified atc
    send them to direct hire to facilities. they have proved their mettle. they passed their respective military atc academys.
    cti students , they all need to go to the faa academy oke city. prove their mettle.
    they want to send them direct hire now. what a failure that will be. another dumb idea.
    thats why the article here the other day natca wants some input on this , or this will become another debacle.
    the off the street hires ots, should be the last group to hire from, if the military and cti student hire has no more candidates to fill up the years allotment of trainees.
    the training i receieved at usaf keesler afb atc school, top notch.
    was taught the faa order 7110.65 , the controller bible, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, word by word, in the field was trained by career nco’s who were incredible mentors.

    i hope dot seceretary mr. buttigieg reads my comments.

    i hope new faa admin mr. whitaker reads my comments.

    the faa needs a overhaul.
    look at the debacle that the faa gave too much rope to boeing over the new B737 max certification
    a friend is a retired chevron chemical engineer. worked for gami to get the new unleaded fuel certified. he was on a contract team to review the fuel to the faa.
    this was the 9th review to the faa to get this fuel on the market

    what the hell is going on at the faa?

    i was rooting for mr billy nolen to become permanent administrator.
    what a smart guy, especially in safety culture.
    i saw him at eaa oshkosh, meet the administrator at theatre in the woods.

    i surely hope mr whitaker is sucessful.makes changes, dont be afraid to shake things up.

    weve had some great faa administrators, and some dozies.

    i’ll get off my soap box, i hope my comments are taken to heart. my aviation career started at the local airport , 16, as a line boy. got all my pilot ratings, entered the usaf at 18 out of high school.
    i never forget lackland afb basic training.
    tsgt tierce our drill instructor
    37th bmts basic military training squadron
    ‘ lead follow or get out of the way’
    what a ride its been.

    happy holidays.


  9. gri90:
    marion blakeley.
    said that controllers were overated and overpaid.

    i beg to differ.
    to work this level of traffic at busy facilities everday no easy task.
    i remember working nct nocal approach one afternoon
    san jose arrivals nonstop talking. 4 hours on position.
    finally asked for a break to go use the bathroom. ridiculous.
    getting called by a supe at 5:30 am on my day off.
    begging me to come to work asap , just thow on your sweats and come.
    nobody certified on duty to work sf bay area 12 west plan.
    meaning sfo and oak landing west. sjc landing rwy 12 due to winds.
    i lived 5 min away on the old mather afb. threw on sweats , grabbed a coffee , sat down to work the sjc morning 6 am arrival rush.
    incredible. what would happen if i didnt answer ?

    yes the training debacle started on her watch.


  10. also if the faa wants to hire me back and go to 600 independence ave sw
    washington DC L’Enfant plaza faa hq to shake things up,
    please give me a call.

  11. As a low time PP SEL who struggles in fear of the rapid-fire radio comms encountered in more than one TRACON, I am certainly not comforted by Amelia Walsh’s well composed report. My multitude of questions are replaced here by one: Pete Buttigeg, are you getting this message? If so, why are you not responding to us, the pilots who are at least 50% of the safety profile of the NAS? Surely, some employee in Transportation Dept. reads AVweb and could share it with him for his response! What do you say, Pete?

  12. As a 45 year aviation participant including FAA tower and tracon controller/instructor, Flight Standards inspector, supervisor, manager, FAA pilot, Airline pilot, charter pilot and DPE-

    Nothing will change until Congress becomes educated and understands that the FAA in total is ONLY interested in more funding, for more do nothing “programs” that are contrived and constructed by private contractors, and that the agency, like government in Total, is primarily interested in hiring more of their same- based on every conceivable parameter OTHER THAN experience, knowledge and skill. It’s not just ATC that is failing- it’s Flight Standards, medical, certification of pilots, instructors, mechanics and basic fair, fundamental, regulatory oversight of all of the above.

    Mr. Whitaker has been introduced by AOPA (another useful idiot organization and arm of the federal government- 100LL fuel is absolutely disastrous for the environment – Mark Baker, AOPA) as a pilot- “and Mike is a Private Pilot- Mark Baker, AOPA.” Right-

    This time a couple of months ago he was a student pilot and now, as of 10/26/2023, the DAY BEFORE HE BECAME FAA ADMINISTRATOR he reportedly is now a Private Pilot. GEE, I WONDER WHO GAVE HIM THE CHECK RIDE???

    Kudos to him for his attaining Private Pilot status but he brings absolutely NOTHING to the table that is viable for addressing the overall mess AND CULTURE THAT IS THE FAA. If you doubt what I say, despite all of the glowing reviews from government and industry alphabet groups (AOPA, NBAA, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION ET AL) go look at his ACTUAL resume and ask yourself- what exactly does this guy know, what has he ACTUALLY done, what skills and base of actual experience does he posses, that will enable him to fix the mess that is now the FAA. My views have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER OR NOT HE IS A NICE GUY THAT CARES DEEPLY FOR HIS FELLOW HUMANS- I’m the first to say, I’ve never met him- but take the time to take a deep dive and see what you find.

    Congress is ultimately to blame for this by supporting the contractors who really dictate what goes on at the FAA. There has’nt been an original thought at the agency since the 1950’s when actual aviators were running the place. Combine that with the fact that MOST of those running the place and/or setting policy have come out of Andrew’s AFB or it’s equivalent with ZERO civil aviation experience (and yes there is a HUGE difference), the ridiculous mandates of ICAO and their non-sensical, bureaucratic approach to safety (All operators of aircraft will eventually be required to have and use a SMS program) and we, my friends are doomed unless and without a radical change that begins with, as others have said-“tell it like it is.”

    If it all sounds like doom and gloom, it is compared to what was once a viable, purposeful and fairly efficient leader in aviation. And for those who scoff at what I’ve presented- consider looking a little deeper than what is presented in the nightly news or in your favorite aviation magazine. Despite popular opinion, and the far fetched promises of coin operated training schools, not everyone is equipped and qualified mentally or physically to be a competent controller, pilot, or mechanic- much less an overseer of any or all.

    Blue Skies and best of luck in your pursuits.

  13. oldcontroller:
    thanks for another excellent responce . your experience is way above mine, although ive heard the horror stories about other faa divisions.
    we all have a passion to do our jobs 110%, to insure safety , and go home satisfied of a job done well, and to look forward to coming back the next day to do it all over again.
    it was tough , rotating shift work, 8 now 9 hrs between shifts, short staffed, lots of ot.

    this is a common problem all over the world with atc.
    who wants this responsibility, stress, 60 hr work weeks, scrutiny to no end, passing a class 2 medical as you age is difficult. tethered to the console by a headset, just to go to the bathroom has to be arranged. we did it day after day. we took great pride
    in doing it, and safety was our number one priority.
    sadly this all seems to be lost on the new generation.

  14. luckyfivetwo :
    Please accept my apologies in advance. My hands and fingers have bad arthritis,
    caused by 38 yrs of typing on keyboards. I’ll try to do better.



  15. Former ATC (Tower and TRACON), FSDO Inspector, Airline Pilot etc., etc.

    Social engineering with ATC started way back in the early 1970’s. Any Federal employee could apply to ATC, no experience required. Our facility received some Postal Service employees. New hire would spend 9 months at OKC Academy, then to facility for training. Many washouts, but at least we could decide who was safe and who was dangerous. How do I know this-I was there.

    When I read about the current situation of training everybody, with no washouts, I found it hard to believe that anyone with half a brain thought it would work. I still fly. We see the results of this irrational policy every day with ATC.

    “Some” of today’s controllers think their job is to just issue clearances. They need to understand that their job is to separate aircraft by any means that may be necessary, which requires that they think and apply instructions as necessary. Sadly, this frequently doesn’t happen. Yes, there are many excellent controllers. I’m referring to the bottom segment that should never have been signed off.

    Sadly, I agree with the comments that we are close to an air disaster, I hope I’m wrong.

  16. NY Times article 2 days ago on the controller burnout.
    Most of my generation retired 7-8 yrs ago, due to the age 56 rule.
    Was composed of alot of ex military controllers.
    President 45 had a federal hiring freeze during his term.
    Then covid hit , causing very little training for a few years.
    This has crippled the training pipline, as the faa atc academy can handle about 1500-1800 trainees a year.
    Maybe need to expand the academy, hire instructors as faa employees rather than contract employees.
    Theres much more to come.
    CNN article about the staffing problems today.
    Interesting reading from http://www.pointsixtyfive.com
    Posts from active controllers.
    Im hoping for good awareness on the pilots, airport operators, dispatchers, mechanics,
    ramp personnel to keep things safe.
    Atc needs to utilize CRM similar to pilot cockpit checks and balances.
    Ive got my fingers crossed we dont have a major air accident.