ANALYSIS: 2015-01-17.. Near Collision at JFK Airport

A potential runway collision at JFK Airport [KJFK] was averted when pilots aborted a takeoff clearance off Runway 22R while a Boeing 737 arrival started to cross the runway downfield. The departure, JetBlue Flight 1295, an Airbus A320 to Austin [KAUS], had already accelerated when the pilots saw an aircraft crossing ahead, so they pulled power and braked to avoid an impact.20150117.. [KJFK] AprtDgm portion showing RWY incursionThe departure was able to stop and exit at Taxiway Golf (green, in the airport diagram above), well short of Taxiway Juliet where the runway incursion had crossed (red, in the airport diagram above). Here’s an excerpt from a news article:

“We were heading full speed down the runway, and the plane came to a screeching stop,” says passenger Brandon Card.
“Caribbean Airlines Flight 526 was right in the path of JetBlue’s plane.
“The people came on the intercom and said ‘yeah, we almost collided with another plane,” said passenger Krista Hollis, “when they said that collision would have been inevitable if we hadn’t braked, I was like, ‘what?!’”

20150117.. BWA526, SYJC (runway incursion acft) The B737, Caribbean Airlines Flight 526 [BWA526] had landed on Runway 22L roughly a minute earlier, after a 4.5 hour flight from the main airport in Georgetown, Guyana. After landing, the flight would normally be given instructions to exit the runway, then hold short of the other runway. It appears this did not happen. Reportedly, shortly after clearing the JetBlue departure for takeoff, the controller observed the runway incursion developing and asked the Caribbean flight if he was stopping … while the JetBlue was still accelerating.

Flightaware data indicates that the JetBlue flight was departing roughly 90-minutes late when they aborted their takeoff. The actual departure then delayed for more than two additional hours, likely to refuel and possibly to have their mechanics do an inspection of the brakes. Passengers who were expecting to arrival at 11:43PM instead arrived in Austin at 3:27AM.

How Did This Happen?

The incident recording is archived at LiveATC.net (see: KJFK 0300-0330Z; BWA526 reports on frequency at 24:38). The controller is not too busy, and is working a steady flow of departures off Runway 22R and arrivals to Runway 22L. There is no complexity. He puts each departure onto the runway to ‘line up and wait’, then clears each for takeoff once the preceding departure is far enough out and once the arrivals have all been crossed or held short of the runway. In the case of BWA526, it appears the controller never issued any hold-short or taxi instructions. So, it was a risky clearance, for him to clear JetBlue for takeoff, having not yet talked to BWA526 to ensure the runway was protected. A closer analysis will follow, once a transcript is made.