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Safety investigators subpoena pilots over close call at JFK

The National Transportation Safety Board said it attempted to interview the crew members three times

A clock at the entrance to JFK Airport in New York is pictured on Aug. 15, 2003.
A clock at the entrance to JFK Airport in New York is pictured on Aug. 15, 2003.STUART RAMSON (AP)

Federal investigators said Friday they have issued subpoenas to force the pilots of an American Airlines jet to sit for recorded interviews about a close call on a runway at New York’s Kennedy Airport last month.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it attempted to interview the crew members three times, but a union representative said the pilots refused to have their statements recorded.

“NTSB has determined that this investigation requires that the flight crew interviews be audio recorded and transcribed by a court reporter to ensure the highest degree of accuracy, completeness, and efficiency,” the agency said in a preliminary report. “As a result of the flight crew’s repeated unwillingness to proceed with a recorded interview, subpoenas for their testimony have been issued.”

The NTSB said the American Airlines Boeing 777 crossed an active runway on Jan. 13 without approval from air traffic controllers, and that led to a close call with a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 that was taking off on the same runway.

Disaster was averted when an air traffic controller, using an expletive, urgently told pilots of the Delta jet to stop their takeoff.

The NTSB said the controller was alerted to the danger by a surveillance system that lets controllers track the movement of planes and vehicles on the ground.

The board said the American Airlines Boeing 777 and the Delta Boeing 737 were separated by about 1,400 feet at the closest point — a bit farther apart than previously reported.

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