EgyptAir Almost has Catastrophe in New York


22.06.2011 by Hassan Shahin

An Egyptair Boeing 777 made a wrong turn and entered the runway at JFK just as a Lufthansa Airbus 340 was taking off in its direction. The German pilots managed to stop their airplane before the deadly collision. Both large airliners were full of fuel for their long flights, and had hundreds of passengers aboard. A major catastrophe was avoided.


The incident occurred on the evening of June 20th 2011. Shortly after Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 flight LH-411 from New York to Munich started rolling down the runway and gathering speed for takeoff, the German pilots heard a scream from the control tower to stop.


According to reports of the incident, the traffic controllers in the control tower had seen that an Egyptair  Boeing 777-300 had entered the runway that the German plane was using, and a collision between the two giant aircraft was about to take place.


The Egyptian airplane had been preparing to depart for its flight MS-986 from New York to Cairo. It had been instructed to turn left into the taxiway – this is a road that runs alongside the runway, and airplanes use it to get to the far end of the runway, from where they take off.


For an unknown reason, the Egyptian pilots did not make the left turn into the taxiway, but instead they passed it and instead turned left when they came to the main runway. This placed their aircraft in the center of the runway, with its nose pointed towards the German airplane.


The German airplane, meanwhile, was accelerating directly towards them to its takeoff speed of over 300 Km/hour. When its pilots heard the calls from the control tower they immediately braked the Airbus. Their aircraft, which was carrying jet fuel for a ten hour flight, is estimated to have weighed over 350,000 Kg. Stopping this much weight when it is going so fast is very difficult. A pilot of another airplane who witnessed the event was sure that the two planes were about to collide, but German pilots managed to stop before reaching the Egyptian airliner.


Had they not succeeded in stopping, there is no doubt that the collision would have caused an enormous fireball which would have killed hundreds of Egyptians, Germans and tourists in an instant, and would have ranked as one of the worst aircraft disasters of all time. The German Airbus was carrying 286 passengers, plus crew, accourding to Lufthansa, and the EgyptAir Boeing 777 could have been carrying up to 346 passengers, plus a double flight crew.


After it stopped, the German plane was rushed to technical inspection, because the brakes and wheels had become so hot in the emergency stop that it was feared a fire would begin. It was released an hour and a half later and took off for Germany.


The EgyptAir airplane was also delayed for over an hour, then sent on its way.


Sadly, Egyptair is no stranger to tragedy at JFK. On October 31, 1999, An Egyptair Boeing 767 that had taken off from the airport crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of America, killing all 217 people on board. The investigation conducted by the Egyptian aviation authorities determined that a mechanical failure was the cause of the crash, but the American aviation authorities, who were part of the investigation, insisted that the cause was a deliberate action of one of the pilots, Gameel Al-Batouti, creating much tension between the two countries.


A year before this, on 12 May 1998 in EgyptAir’s home airport Cairo, an accident occurred when an Egyptair Airbus A320 crossed a runway right in front of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 which was taking off on it. Because the Egyptian jet was moving across the runway and not travelling down it as happened this week, it managed to get out of the way. The Ethiopian jet only hit the edge of the Egyptian’s tail with the tip of its wing. No explosion took place, and it managed to return to the ground safely.


For some time there has been fear that an airliner would miss its turn in the very complex maze of roads in the modern airports. Exactly one year ago, the US aviation authorities introduce new and harsher rules on how airliners were to be guided in the airfield.



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