Investigation underway into close call during takeoff at JFK Airport

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Having been given a clearance, a passenger-packed JetBlue flight 1295 headed full throttle down JFK's runway. At about the same time, Caribbean Airways Flight 526 had just landed. Air Traffic Control gave it instructions to hold short, meaning to stop before crossing the active runway.

The Caribbean Pilot never answered because as Eyewitness News has learned, he was on the wrong frequency and never heard tower instructions to stop, nor repeated calls from the tower.

Flight 526 rolled across the runway as the JetBlue plane neared take-off speeds. Fortunately, the JetBlue pilots saw the other plane crossing in the night and slammed on their brakes.

"It's about as bad as it can get without having two planes collide," said former commercial airline pilot Bob Ober.

Bob Ober spent decades as an airline pilot and flew in and out of JFK hundreds of times.

"In just a matter of two to three seconds, that plane would have been at a speed where it could not have stopped," Ober adds.

The FAA says the planes never came within 2,800 feet of each other, which is not that much space when one plane is going 130 miles per hour.

"We were headed full steam down the runway, and the plane came to a screeching stop," said passenger Brandon Card.

"When they said a collision was inevitable if pilot hadn't braked, I said 'WHAT?!'" adds passenger Krista Hollis.

Eyewitness News has learned that JFK was scheduled to get a new runway lighting system that would help prevent through flashing red lights, this exact kind of close call. Red in-pavement lights illuminate when it is not safe to enter or cross the runway.

The FAA says construction on the project has begun.

"Ninety percent of these things can be eliminated with technology," says Ober, "you spend the money and do it right, there's no reason for a delay in doing this."

9 airports including Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. have the safety lights installed on the runway.
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