Airport Controller Yells 'Hold' at Plane Landing in Boston, Possible Runway Collision Averted

An alert air traffic controller at Logan Airport in Boston may have averted a Thanksgiving Eve plane collision on a runway-- saving hundreds of lives on one of the busiest travel nights of the year.

“The pilot made the wrong turn,” Matt McCluskey, the president of the Boston Air Traffic Controllers Union, said. “Luckily, we were on top of our game.”

JetBlue Flight 1264 from Austin, with 91 passengers, had just landed and hooked right instead of left, which put it on a collision course with another JetBlue plane gaining speed for takeoff.

Mark Libby, a 32-year-veteran air traffic controller who is one year from retirement, noticed the stray plane and commanded it to stop.

“JetBlue hold. JetBlue 1264 hold right there. JetBlue 1264, hold, hold!” Libby can be heard saying on a radio recording obtained by

The plane stopped. A possible disaster was averted.

However, it’s difficult to determine whether the planes would have collided at the intersection of runway 33L. McLuskey said that most times planes are airborne by time they reach that point.

JetBlue confirmed the incident in an e-mail response to

“The processes put in place by the airline, the pilots and (the union) are designed to prevent and mitigate inadvertent errors,” the statement said. “The system worked.”

Veteran air traffic controllers are growing scarce, said Doug Church, a spokesman from the National Air Traffic Association. Four out of 10 controllers today have fewer than three years' experience, Church said.

But Church is not alarmed at the numbers, pointing out that air traffic controllers receive thorough training.

“It’s like at the end of the game,” Church said. “You want the Jordans or the Gretskys of the world with the ball.”