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Jet halts takeoff in close call at N.Y. airport

- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — A jet carrying 286 passengers slammed on its brakes and aborted a takeoff this week at John F. Kennedy International Airport after another plane began taxiing toward the runway it was using, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday.

Lufthansa Flight 411 was cleared for takeoff, and EgyptAir Flight 986 was instructed to stay behind a "hold line," 250 feet behind the runway, at 6:50 p.m. Monday, said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen. The EgyptAir plane crossed the line but did not enter the runway, she said.

"When air traffic control saw that, it canceled the takeoff for Lufthansa," Ms. Bergen said, adding that the Lufthansa plane stopped "a considerable distance" from the EgyptAir jet.

In radio recordings posted on the website LiveATC.net, a controller in the JFK tower is heard giving takeoff clearance to the Lufthansa flight while another controller directs the EgyptAir plane.

"No! Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa!" shouts someone in the tower as the EgyptAir plane crosses the hold-short line.

"Cancel takeoff! Cancel takeoff plans!" a controller shouts to the Lufthansa jet.

The Lufthansa plane, an Airbus A340, slammed on its brakes and came to a stop. Then it taxied off the runway. The pilot told controllers he was worried his brakes may have overheated, so controllers sent a crew from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, to help check the plane's landing gear.

"That was quite a show. Thought it was going to be a short career," a pilot who witnessed the aborted takeoff remarked on the radio.

The FAA was looking at "pilot deviation" because the EgyptAir plane, a Boeing 777, didn't follow air traffic instructions.

"The pilot was instructed to turn onto another taxiway but did not," Ms. Bergen said.

She said the FAA is investigating and will determine how close the two planes came.

EgyptAir officials said they had no knowledge of the close call.

The Lufthansa flight was heading to Munich, airline spokesman Martin Riecken said. After the takeoff was halted, the captain returned to the gate for a maintenance check while the passengers remained on the plane. The fight departed about two hours later, Mr. Riecken said.

There were no reports of injuries.

The New York Post reported that the EgyptAir flight was bound for Cairo. It was not immediately known how many people it was carrying. It departed about 90 minutes afterward.

Ms. Bergen said investigators will listen to air traffic communications and look at a radar replay.

Aviation authorities increasingly are worried about the danger of runway collisions as planes get bigger and airports more congested. In December a JetBlue plane took a wrong turn at Boston's Logan International Airport and nearly taxied onto a runway where another plane was taking off.

The deadliest crash in aviation history was a runway collision. In 1977 a KLM Boeing 747 crashed into a Pan Am 747 on the same runway on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, killing 583 people.

Associated Press writer Chris Hawley contributed to this report.

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