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Lufthansa and South African Airways Planes Nearly Collide at Johannesburg Airport

Lufthansa and South African Airways Planes Nearly Collide at Johannesburg Airport

BY FRANCO GROBLER Published on February 25, 2024 3 COMMENTS

A Lufthansa Boeing 747 almost collided with a South African Airways (SAA) Airbus A320 at Johannesburg O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) on February 23.


Johannesburg O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) | Photo: AECOM


The Incident


The incident took place around 8:16 p.m. local time. The Lufthansa plane, flying under flight number LH 573 to Frankfurt, was starting to take off from runway 03L when SAA flight SA 422 crossed the runway.




Initial reports suggest that the SAA A320, arriving from Port Elizabeth (PLZ), taxied onto runway 03R without proper authorization. This maneuver placed it directly in the path of the accelerating Lufthansa 747, prompting the pilot to initiate a rejected takeoff at approximately 29 knots.


One user wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: "One-second difference here, and it would've been a disaster." Meanwhile, another user said: "That's a long runway takeoff due to the altitude of OR Tambo. They're lucky."


The Lufthansa plane involved in the incident, with registration D-ABYJ | Photo: Flickr


An investigation is underway to pinpoint the incident's root cause. The inquiry will analyze air traffic control communications, review pilot actions, and examine potential technical malfunctions. The findings are expected to be crucial in identifying and addressing systemic weaknesses that may have contributed to the near-miss.


The aviation industry will likely implement stricter protocols and enhance communication channels between air traffic control and pilots. Additionally, the renewed emphasis on adherence to established procedures and heightened situational awareness will prevent similar incidents.


The South African Airways plane involved in the close call, with registration ZS-SZE | Photo: Blogspot


Similar Incidents


One of the deadliest runway incursion incidents occurred at Tenerife South Airport (TFN) in 1977. Two Boeing 747 aircraft collided on the runway, resulting in 583 fatalities. The cause was attributed to various factors, including communication issues, poor visibility, and pilot confusion.




On February 27, 2023, a JetBlue flight was forced to abort its landing at Logan International Airport (BOS) because a private jet crossed the runway without authorization. Fortunately, a mid-air collision was averted thanks to the quick actions of the JetBlue crew. This incident highlighted the potential dangers of unauthorized aircraft entries into controlled airspace.


At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on March 7, 2023, a Republic Airways plane taxied across a runway where a United Airlines flight was preparing to take off. A collision was avoided due to the attentiveness of both crews and intervention by air traffic control.


Planes at gates at Johannesburg Airport | Photo: OR Tambo International Airport


These incidents and the recent near-miss at Johannesburg-O. R. Tambo demonstrates the importance of vigilance and improvement in air traffic control procedures, pilot training, and technological advancements. Each incident is a learning experience, encouraging the aviation industry to adapt and implement stricter measures to prevent similar occurrences.


It is important to remember that despite these incidents, commercial aviation remains one of the safest modes of transportation globally. However, the constant pursuit of even greater safety remains a critical objective for the entire aviation industry.



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Franco Grobler
Passionate aviation enthusiast from South Africa dedicated to bringing you articles on the latest aviation news, I aim to inspire and inform. I am set on embarking pilot training in 2024 to soar to new heights in the aviation world.

Comments (3)

112d ago • Reply
Oliver Tambo It appears this story is essentially false. The 747 was not taking off, it was taxiing on the runway. There was no danger of a collision, it was just two taxiing aircraft moving at taxi speeds (on a runway, 29 knots would be a typical taxi speed).
113d ago • Reply
Franco Grobler (author) Yes, indeed. At the time of writing, we had very little info. Most sources stated that the plane was on a takeoff roll - Updates will be made as the story gets clearer.

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