Air Traffic Control Screws Up Again: American Airlines A319 Aborts Takeoff at High Speed To Avoid Another Plane

An American Airlines Airbus A319 had a near miss at Washington’s Reagan National airport on Wednesday. Flight 2134 to Boston was cleared for takeoff on runway 1, while a King Air was cleared to land. Air traffic control realized their mistake, cancelling takeoff clearance for the American Airlines flight – and telling the King Air to abort and go around. They couldn’t because they were already on the ground.

The American Airbus rejected takeoff at 107 knots. It stopped in just 1,200 feet, with the King Air registration N250AA crossing in front of it around 1,500 feet ahead. As a sidenote, this King Air is unusual. Non-commercial aircraft movements are highly limited at the airport but this one has been there many times before.

    Tower: American 2134 cancel takeoff clearance. …Zero, alpha, alpha, go around, go around

    American 2134: Rejecting the takeoff 2134

    King Air: Zero alpha alpha, cannot go around, we are already on the ground.

    Tower: American 2134 do you want to go back to the gate?

    American: We need to talk to maintenance, but yeah, I think we were above 80 knots so we’re going to have to get an inspection.

American Airlines Airbus A319

The American plane returned to service after a four and a half hour delay. According to the FAA,

An air traffic controller cancelled the takeoff clearance for American Airlines Flight 2134 because another aircraft was cleared to land on an intersecting runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The event occurred around 10:30 am local time on Wednesday, May 29. The FAA will investigate.

This follows another near-miss at the airport last month. Shockingly, local Congressman Don Beyer is demagoguing the issue – and distracting from the air traffic control failings. (HT: HoKo)

The state’s two senators piled on irresponsibly,

“We’re deeply relieved that no one was injured after two planes nearly collided at DCA on Wednesday morning, but this incident is further evidence that the airport is severely overburdened and at capacity,” Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a joint statement. “It shows why the Senate’s decision to jam even more flights onto the busiest runway in America as part of the FAA reauthorization bill — a move we fought against for months — was so dangerous and reckless.”

The incident quite obviously is not the result of adding slots for 5 roundtrip flights a day at the airport because those flights have not been added yet.

We’re talking about an increase of less than 1% of daily flights. We don’t have specific time slots yet, but there are certainly valleys in traffic during the day. (And National airport was one of the most on-time in the world in 2023.)

The issue here is clearly air traffic control – again. And that’s an issue which which is hardly limited to this airport. There are 300 near-collisions per year. Famously last year we had the American Airlines New York JFK – London flight which nearly taxied into a Delta 737 and the Fedex plane that was cleared to land on top of a Southwest Airlines 737 in Austin.

Focusing on airport slots distracts from honing in like a laser on dangerous air traffic control problems that we’re facing in the United States. That’s irresponsible for U.S. Congressmen and Beyer, Warner, and Kaine should be ashamed of themselves. The focus on their pet political issue, and away from safety, could be the difference in making real change at the FAA’s air traffic organization, and puts lives at risk.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Perhaps Pete Buttigieg should spend less time focusing on airline fees and more time on cleaning up the mess at the FAA.

  2. Maybe a union would have been a good idea.

    Less hours, better pay, more air traffic controllers.

    Funny how bad decisions resonate across decades.

  3. And eventually, when the collision occurs, it will all come down on the head of one overworked controller. That individual will be blamed while the underlying problem will be ignored.

  4. It is only a matter of time. Once again politicians prove themselves to be totally useless at solving the problem.

  5. @AndyS. DEI is Not Affirmative Action. It has nothing to do with hiring less qualified minorities over better qualified people…

  6. The issue is Congress hasn’t spent enough money on training replacement controllers. There have been numerous required retirements due to age. That is no secret. But, the controllers I know are overworked in one of the most stressful jobs in the world. And, it is a job that cannot be learned overnight. It takes over 3 years.

  7. @Jerry – “Congress hasn’t spent enough money” is never the problem. Ever. An entrenched, unionized government bureaucracy with insufficient accountability or incentives to perform? Yes. Not enough money? Never.

  8. Ummm – Doug, Air Traffic Controllers are not really unionized- they have no right to strike. But sure, keep bashing them instead of addressing the root problem.

    Doug reminds me of the Libertarians who took over a town in New Hampshire, to prove that they could eliminate unnecessary government bureaucracy, like garbage collection. They were eaten by bears.

  9. Wow, this is amazing. I fly also, my own Cessna T210. Remind me again as I possibly go into a Class C and higher airports to look both ways before “lining up and waiting, crossing runways and taxiways. At my own airport which is currently non towered, it seems safer by comparison. Class D airports seems safer also as I have never had any incursion issues. I drive in England often and you have to think backwards there looking to your LEFT instead of right in the US. Seems prudent now to looks everywhere, be a bit hesitant or slow in complying with a direction from the tower as ATC controllers in high end airports have lost their ways or are overworked, maybe lack sufficient training. Unbelievable..

  10. As to the looking for traffic driving in England, I meant look to your right there while we look to our left in the US.. It can get confusing. Ha!

  11. Wonder if AI could be of help for the controllers? Seems a problem that could be trained for

  12. I happen to agree there’s little reason not to increase flights out of DCA, and as a WAS-based flyer I’d appreciate the competition, but this “ The incident quite obviously is not the result of adding slots..”, in response to the Kaine/Warner message was just bad journalism. Their point was that the system is already overburdened and extra flights will make it worse. And I believe you knew that, Gary, you’re a smart guy. If you’re going to make points, make them honestly.

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