Scary: Southwest And Delta Flights On Simultaneous Take-Off Roll On Intersecting Runways In Chicago

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A Delta Airlines flight and a Southwest Airlines flight were rolling for take off at the same time on intersecting runways at Chicago’s Midway Airport yesterday evening before Air Traffic Controllers at MDW started shouting at Southwest Airlines flight 3828 from Chicago to Tulsa to “stop, stop, stop!” According to the Associated Press, the Southwest Airlines flight stopped about 2,000 feet short of the intersecting runway.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.35.02 PM

An Aerial view of Chicago Midway International Airport, a.k.a. the world’s “Busiest Square Mile.” Photo taken and used with permission by: Chris Bungo

From the Associated Press:

Southwest Airlines Flight 3828 to Tulsa, Oklahoma, had been cleared for takeoff and was speeding down the runway. At the same time, an air traffic controller saw Delta Air Lines Flight 1328 to Atlanta beginning to take off on the intersecting runway without proper clearance, the FAA said.

“1328, stop, stop stop!” the controller shouted, according to audio posted on the website

“1328 stopping,” the pilot answered in a clam voice, before the controller directed both planes to different taxiways.


The Southwest plane also safely aborted its takeoff, said airline spokesman Brian Parrish. The aircraft later continued on to Tulsa.

Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said the airline was cooperating with the investigation but that he could not provide any information on what might have led to the runway mix-up.

The Associated Press story said that the ATC audio indicates that the two airplanes were answering each others radio calls, suggesting possible confusion between the two sets of pilots.

The story goes on to report:

The Southwest pilot later asked whether his aircraft was the one cleared for takeoff.

“Yes sir, you were,” the controller responded. “You were the one. You were doing what you were supposed to be doing.”

Bottom Line:

I wonder if the pilots of the two aircraft were tuned into the last two numbers of their respective flights, only really hearing the “-28” in the flight numbers when being called by ATC – flight 3828 versus flight 1328.  The incident is under FAA investigation, but still sounds like scary times aboard both aircraft yesterday evening at Chicago’s Midway Airport.

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  1. Seems crazy that two flights with the same last two digits would be allocated departure slots for the same time. Wouldn’t there be somebody who oversees this sort of stuff and who would make the airlines (and pilots, ATC) aware of such a scenario, which would be scheduled pretty regularly?

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