The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration consider runway incursions to be a top safety concern. Runway safety appeared on the NTSB Most Wanted List of advocacy priorities as recently as 2012. Runway incursions, situations involving planes taxiing, taking off or landing, represent a significant threat at airports throughout the country. A recent incident at Midway is expected to draw NTSB investigators to Chicago once again.
O’Hare International Airport has been the site of multiple runway incursion investigations in recent years. The NTSB and FAA have made a number of recommendations to reduce the potential for accidents on and around airport runways. The incident at Midway Airport reportedly involves two planes with similar-sounding flight numbers. Two planes waiting to take off both responded to a flight controller’s direction to one of the planes to begin its takeoff roll. Both planes were halted before a collision could occur.
The FAA is currently working on a project to replace voice communications between air traffic controllers and pilots with data communication. The data system promises to reduce situations where miscommunication threatens the safety of passengers, pilots and airline personnel. The system has not yet been completed and is likely a number of years from full release.
The aircraft involved, Delta Air Lines Flight 1328 and Southwest Airlines Flight 3828, were both able to complete their flights after a small delay. The Delta captain was advised to report a pilot deviation and Delta released a statement indicating its intent to cooperate with the FAA investigation.
Source: The Chicago Tribune, “NTSB expected to investigate close call at Midway,” by Jon Hilkevitch, 17 June 2015