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Plane nearly hit ambulance on BWI Airport runway in January, FAA says

March 23, 2023 Updated Thu., March 23, 2023 at 5:10 p.m.

Travelers make their way through BWI Marshall Airport in Baltimore, in June 2022.    (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
Travelers make their way through BWI Marshall Airport in Baltimore, in June 2022.   (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
By Dan Belson Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — A plane nearly hit an ambulance on the runway at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in January, according to a Federal Aviation Administration report.

The encounter happened when a BWI Marshall Airport Fire and Rescue Department medic vehicle and firefighter crossed a runway without air traffic control authorization on Jan. 12, BWI spokesperson Jonathan Dean said.

A Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines came within 200 feet of the aircraft rescue ambulance, which the report says crossed a runway due to a miscommunication with air traffic control. The ambulance had been instructed to stop prior to reaching the runway, but the driver believed they were instructed to cross it and was moving close to the runway as the plane took off at about 168 miles per hour.

The close encounter was reported to the FAA, Dean said. The near miss was first reported in media this month by Politico, which included the encounter among a string of six close encounters at airports this year.

“Based on a review of the incident, new procedures were immediately implemented to help ensure safety and to prevent a similar incident in the future,” Dean said. “Safety and security remain the highest priorities for BWI Marshall Airport.”

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a safety alert Wednesday and held a safety summit last week in light of the six close calls on runways since the beginning of the year.

“While the overall numbers do not reflect an increase in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of these events is concerning,” the Wednesday safety alert says, urging airlines, pilots and others in the industry to take several safety actions.

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