Unauthorized take-off causes near-miss at Boston's Logan International Airport.

Key Points:

  • A charter jet pilot operated by Hop-A-Jet took off without permission at Boston's Logan International Airport, nearly colliding with a landing JetBlue plane.

  • The captain of the Hop-A-Jet plane admitted to misunderstanding the air traffic controller's instruction to wait, believing they were cleared for takeoff.

  • This incident contributes to a series of recent aviation safety concerns in the U.S., resulting in a "safety summit" convened by the Federal Aviation Administration.

BOSTON — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported on Thursday that a charter jet from Hop-A-Jet undertook an unsanctioned takeoff at Boston's Logan International Airport in February. This unapproved action almost led to a disastrous encounter with a JetBlue plane that was scheduled to land on an intersecting runway.

A video captured from the JetBlue cockpit encapsulated the perilous moment when the Learjet crossed the runway mere feet ahead of the incoming JetBlue aircraft.

Estimating their altitude to be around 30 feet (9 meters) at the time, the JetBlue pilots described seeing the other plane intersect their path. Despite the surprise, they managed to ascend, circle back, and land safely. The captain was unable to determine the proximity to the Learjet, according to the NTSB report.

Hop-A-Jet's captain recalled hearing and acknowledging the air traffic controller's instruction to wait before taking off. However, the NTSB disclosed that he was under the impression that they had been given clearance to depart.

The co-pilot, who was operating the Hop-A-Jet aircraft, confirmed to investigators that he was informed by the captain that they were cleared for takeoff. The captain, Alvaro Donado, expressed confusion over the miscommunication in a statement to the safety board, blaming the cold temperature in Boston for his indisposition at the time.

The NTSB's final report stated that after the Hop-A-Jet aircraft landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Boston tower informed the 63-year-old captain and the 23-year-old co-pilot that they had taken off without permission. The JetBlue aircraft had passed about 400 feet (120 meters) above them during its go-around.

The incident, which Hop-A-Jet declined to comment on, adds to a string of safety concerns involving U.S. aviation despite the absence of a fatal U.S. airline crash since 2009. The Federal Aviation Administration held a "safety summit" in March to address such near-miss incidents and brainstorm preventive measures.