An investigation is underway after a plane crash between two planes was averted at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday night, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 plane had been set to take off from the busy airport at around 8:45 p.m. when it was frantically ordered by air controllers to stop after they noticed another plane, operated by American Airlines, crossing in front of the departing jetliner, the FAA said in a statement.
″Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!” an air controller could be heard saying in an audio recording of Air Traffic Control communications made by LiveATC, a website that monitors and shares flight communications.
The Delta plane was able to stop safely, with the abrupt halt felt by passengers onboard.
“It was like a split second of panic that resulted in this audible reaction on the plane,” Brian Heale, a passenger on the Delta flight, told NBC News. “I felt the adrenaline and there was total quiet on the plane and then there was relief when the plane came to a stop.”
The Delta plane came to stop around 1,000 feet from where American Airlines Flight 106, a Boeing 777, had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, according to the FAA.
The flight, which had 145 passengers on board and 6 crew members, returned to the gate following the incident and customers had to deplane the aircraft.
The flight was then delayed overnight due to crew resources, with passengers provided with overnight accommodations, a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines said. It departed Saturday morning just before 10:20 a.m.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always Delta’s number one priority,” they said, adding that the airline would “work with and assist aviation authorities on a full review” of the incident.
American Airlines referred all calls to the FAA.
John Cox, a retired pilot and aviation safety professor at the University of Southern California, said he questioned whether there was a “miscommunication between the American crew and the air traffic controllers.”
Asked how rare such incidents are, he said: “This happens occasionally where there will be a misunderstanding about an air traffic control clearance and somebody will end up having to reject a takeoff.”
Both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board have said they will investigate the incident.
Jay Blackman is an NBC News producer covering such areas a transportation, space, medical and consumer issues.