Close Call at Austin, Texas Airport

On 2023-02-04, a Federal Express Boeing 767 was cleared to land on runway 18L at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport in Texas, making a Category III Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach under very low visibility conditions (600 foot runway visual range at the runway mid-point) due to fog. As the 767 was on its final approach, about four minutes before landing, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 which had been holding short on the same runway was cleared to take off and began its takeoff roll. The 767 crew called to the 737 to abort the takeoff and initiated a go-around at an altitude around 150 feet above ground level, turning to the left as the Southwest 737, which had taken off, broke to the right. It is estimated the two aircraft were separated by around 150 feet at closest approach. Here is The Aviation Herald report on the incident.

Juan Browne’s (blancolirio) video report begins with a “helmet fire” on the insanity of clearing one plane to take off from a runway toward which an ILS approach was underway. (Apart from the risk of collision, the mere presence of an airplane in the path of the radio signals sent by the ILS to the approaching plane can disrupt its navigation toward a touchdown on the runway.) He concludes that with “the relentless effort to do things faster, cheaper, and more efficiently, we are just one radio call away from having the biggest aviation disaster in history.”


This is really shocking! Juan make it exquisitely clear as to why this was a recipe for disaster; should have never happened. There is little doubt that standard procedure prohibits clearing an aircraft onto the runway during a CAT 3 ILS. There are even signs which hold aircraft extra short of the approach end of the runway when ILS is in use. Anybody think the controller - a federal employee - will be fired?