Monday night, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) witnessed yet another incident that’s becoming all too familiar in recent times – a runway incursion. This time, it involved Southwest Airlines flight WN2959 from Nashville (BNA), adding to the growing list of near-misses at the Austin airport over the past year.
According to FlightAware data, the flight commenced its descent to AUS a little after 6 p.m. local time. However, things took an unexpected turn when the aircraft, at a mere 600 feet above the ground, decided to climb back up to 2,850 feet. The flight then made a second attempt at landing, eventually touching down at 6:17 p.m.
A Southwest spokesperson downplayed the incident, describing it as a “standard go-around procedure” and emphasizing that pilots are well-trained to handle such scenarios, encountering them somewhat regularly. While the airline aims to reassure the public, this latest event has raised eyebrows in light of the increasing number of similar incidents at AUS in recent times.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided its official stance, stating that an air traffic controller instructed Southwest Airlines Flight 2959 to perform a go-around at 6:06 p.m. local time on Monday. The reason cited was the presence of another aircraft that had not yet exited the runway. Importantly, the FAA asserted that there was no compromise to the safe separation between the Southwest flight and any other aircraft.
An air traffic controller instructed Southwest Airlines Flight 2959 to perform a go-around at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 6:06 p.m. local time on Monday, December 4, because another aircraft had not yet exited the runway. There was no loss of safe separation between the Southwest flight and any other aircraft.FAA Statement
This incident comes on the heels of heightened concerns about safety at Austin’s airport, with a series of near-miss incidents in the past year, including another serious runway incursion earlier this year, prompting regulatory agencies to intervene. Just last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a comprehensive 3,000-page report detailing that near-miss at AUS back in February.
I can’t help but wonder if this is happening more often than is making news. Last September, I experienced a go-around on an American Airlines flight from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) into AUS. I was never able to figure out why, so I’m unsure if it was a runway incursion, or something related to the 8-hour series of events (including not one but two deplanings and a visit from DFW Airport PD) leading up to this aborted landing. Maybe someday I’ll write a post about that, but suffice to say it was by far the worst AA experience I’ve ever had, and had there been a single rental car available at DFW, I’d have just driven (this was a connecting flight). Luckily, I had a great seatmate that kept me sane through the ordeal; she and I still keep in touch to this day.
The repeated occurrences of runway incursions and near misses underscore the importance of addressing safety measures at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. It remains to be seen how authorities will implement and enforce measures to prevent such incidents in the future. The need for heightened vigilance and stringent safety protocols has never been more apparent in the skies over Austin.