FAA investigating possible close call between Southwest flight and air traffic control tower

April 4, 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into a Southwest flight that veered off course while on approach to land at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and may have buzzed the air traffic control tower with as little as 67 feet of clearance, CBS News has learned. 

The incident occurred around 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, when pilots of Southwest Flight 147 aborted their first approach because of bad weather. While on final approach of their second landing attempt, an air traffic controller is heard urgently telling the pilots of the Boeing 737 to “go around” and climb to 2,000 feet. 

“Go around! Go around!” Fly runway heading, climb and maintain 2,000. Climb and maintain 2,000. 2,000,” the air traffic controller said.

The plane had apparently drifted to the east and was no longer lined up with the runway. Preliminary flight tracking data from Flightradar24 put the airliner at an altitude of 300 feet when it began to climb. The FAA said it’s investigating to see if the off-course airliner flew over the 233-foot tall air traffic control tower. 

Flightradar24’s flight tracker map put the plane over the terminal building, not the runway. It appears the plane flew over the parking garage immediately adjacent to the air traffic control tower, based on Flightradar24’s approximate track.  

The same controller told the pilots a few minutes later their plane, “was not aligned with the runway at all. It was like east of final. He was not gonna land on the runway.”  

The airline said there were 147 passengers and six crew members on board the flight from Nashville. 

Southwest told CBS News the airline is “reviewing the event as part of our Safety systems.”  The carrier said the plane encountered turbulence and low visibility while approaching LGA. 

Southwest Flight 147 elected to briefly divert to Baltimore/Washington International Airport, where it landed safely. It then eventually landed safely in New York.

The inclement weather resulted in other go-arounds at LaGuardia, including JetBlue Flight 698, which was trying to land at about the same time. Those pilots reported encountering wind shear. 

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