Kalitta Air 747 Tries To Take Off Without Clearance

Kalitta Air 747 Tries To Take Off Without Clearance

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As an aviation geek, I love listening to air traffic control audio, and always enjoy the VASAviation YouTube channel, which does a great job covering interesting air traffic control situations. Here’s the latest one of these.

Kalitta Air 747 starts takeoff roll without clearance in Cincinnati

While VASAviation has just published a video about this incident, it actually dates back to August 11, 2023, and involves Kalitta Air flight 690 from Cincinnati (CVG) to Anchorage (ANC). The flight was operated by a 31-year-old Boeing 747-400 with the registration code N707CK.

For those not familiar, Kalitta Air is a cargo airline that primarily operates Boeing 747s. The airline uses the callsign “Connie,” and the backstory of that is cool — the company was founded by Conrad “Connie” Kalitta, and the airline decided to use his nickname as the callsign.

Anyway, below you can see and hear the incident that unfolded at Cincinnati Airport.

The Kalitta Air jumbo jet is instructed to line up and wait on runway 27, and one of the pilots of the plane correctly reads back those instructions. However, for whatever reason, the pilots shortly begin their takeoff roll down the runway.

At the same time, an Endeavor Air CRJ-900 operating on behalf of Delta Connection arriving from Minneapolis (MSP) is cleared to land on the intersecting runway, and touches down. Obviously having planes taking off and landing at the same time on intersecting runways is a big no-no.

Fortunately the air traffic controller catches the mistake the Kalitta Air pilots make very quickly, and advises them to cancel their takeoff clearance, before they even reach the runway intersection.

What stands out to me about this incident

Pilots are only human, and just like everyone else, they make mistakes. Now, I am still a bit confused by how this mistake happened — the air traffic controller’s communications were crystal clear about lining up and waiting. How did neither of the two pilots realize that they were taking off without clearance?

The thing that stands out to me most about this incident, though, is how over-the-top professional the air traffic controller is. She remains calm and communicates very clearly. Sometimes in these kinds of incidents, we see air traffic controllers losing their cool and having an ego or temper, while this controller does exactly the opposite.

What an excellent job she does, quickly identifying the problem, calmly resolving it, and then giving the pilots a phone number to call due to the possible pilot deviation.

Bottom line

A Kalitta Air Boeing 747 tried to take off from Cincinnati Airport without takeoff clearance. The pilots had been instructed to line up on the runway, but for whatever reason, they decided to just start their takeoff roll. Fortunately the controller quickly spotted this. Often when we see these kinds of videos, the air traffic controllers aren’t exactly calm, so this controller deserves some credit.

What do you make of this Kalitta Air runway incident?

Conversations (65)
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  1. Juan Batch Guest

    Unfortunately this is a two way street. I once landed at night in Wilmington Delaware. Atc gave me clearance to backtaxi on the runway. Moments later they gave a twin Cessna clearance to taxi onto the opposite end of the runway. While still backdating they cleared him to takeoff. Both pilots saw this mistake instantly and informed ATC of the potential problem. Fatigue can hit anyone.

  2. Jim Carbonetti Guest

    Here’s a link to the actual video of said incident (deviation);
    https://youtu.be/9XkF21VRgcA?si=JKsN5GrCn3paBkhS

  3. Bob Holman Guest

    Back in 1964 i was an air traffic controller for the .marine Corps at El Toro and we had a pair of dual runways that intersected near at the end of the runways.

    34R was a short runway that was to land propeller driven planes and 7L we used for fighter jets to take off.

    As a practice we cleared jets for takeoff when the cargo plane crossed 7R assuming they would clear 7L before...

    Back in 1964 i was an air traffic controller for the .marine Corps at El Toro and we had a pair of dual runways that intersected near at the end of the runways.

    34R was a short runway that was to land propeller driven planes and 7L we used for fighter jets to take off.

    As a practice we cleared jets for takeoff when the cargo plane crossed 7R assuming they would clear 7L before the jets would start there roll..

    This time the cargo plane blew a tire as it approached 7L and spun around blocking the end of the runway. I calmly requested the jets to shortened there takeoff which they replied. "No problem". Problem solved but I was lucky that day. No one ever spoke of it and I never offered any.

    From that time on one runway, one.plane, no.shortcuts.

  4. Gustavo Vega Guest

    There is three people in the cockpit.
    I was under the impression that they are to double check themselves
    No excuses for that.Many disasters happen when no one says anything
    Come on man!!

  5. Howard Nass Guest

    I thought Kallitta Air was used by the CIA for covert operations.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.

    1. FlyerDon Guest

      I think you might be thinking of Air America. It was owned by the CIA.

    2. Henry E. Romance Guest

      Listen "I thought" the saying is so frequently said
      With news media in every corner, how is it that CARGO aircrsft be usemd for covert operations. READ CHECK VERIFY first B4 going on air

  6. kenan bulut Guest

    The flight was operated by a 31 year-old 747? Huh?

  7. Cuttysarkkid Guest

    In my time (20years ago ) in the UK I was use to the term "line up and hold". Considered it perfectly safe never having learned of any issues. In following ATC in recent years, ,I got to hear the phrase "line and wait", then assumed it had been introduced perhaps by ICAO? Maybe some conflictions had occurred making it necessary for the change.
    Having now heard this incident replayed, perhaps it is time for a further revision , "line up and stop"????

    1. Darth Vader Guest

      Line up and Wait has been the ICAO standard for over a decade. In the US it was "position and hold" prior to the FAA going with the ICAO version.

  8. Randall S Guest

    Curious if the line up and wait instruction vs the move into position and hold or just position and hold is a weaker phrase. Tell someone to wait doesn’t mean indefinitely to everyone. Hold is a more staunch term to not move. I remember when that phrase changed and I wondered if someone was just making a name and a claim to fame for changing something that already worked?

  9. The Value Traveler Guest

    the CIA can do whatever they want.

  10. Brianair Guest

    Pretty sure the plane was running late.

  11. Gloria Guest

    I am a retired transport cargo pilot/captain, including for Kalitta, from 1976 to 1989. And an Int'l United pilot/captain 1989 to 2006. Unless you have flown freight, on the backside of your body clock, you cannot imagine what utter fatigue feels like. I am guessing they flew from Anchorage to DHL's hub, sat up in the middle of the night for the 3-4 hours for the Sort, and were heading back to Anchorage, dead tired....

    I am a retired transport cargo pilot/captain, including for Kalitta, from 1976 to 1989. And an Int'l United pilot/captain 1989 to 2006. Unless you have flown freight, on the backside of your body clock, you cannot imagine what utter fatigue feels like. I am guessing they flew from Anchorage to DHL's hub, sat up in the middle of the night for the 3-4 hours for the Sort, and were heading back to Anchorage, dead tired.

    I was an FAA inspector at HQ when the inspector a few cubicles from me published the new flight and duty regulations in 2018. He had expert industry advice. These pilot rest rules had not been changed since the 1950s. They were to be for both passenger AND cargo, yet the FAA listened to the political blow-back from the cargo carriers, and left out the cargo pilots, who need it the most. They are flying under 1950 rules today.

    Myself and the other pilot were once so sleepy that on final approach, as we descended for the runway, we both fell asleep! Our heads leaned toward the center of the cockpit--we bumped heads--and woke just in time. When you are that tired, you CANNOT stay awake.....

  12. Ken D. Guest

    Red light for the "Bounty Hunter!"
    (Inside joke) Connie Kallitta is also known as the "Bounty Hunter" from his drag racing days, Red light refers to leaving the starting line before the green light comes on.

  13. R Charles Guest

    What can be done to incentivize young people to train for careers in air traffic control & reward exceptional performance of current ATCs?

  14. OldCALGuy Guest

    This is a textbook case of human factors. As mentioned earlier, fatigue and repetition figured into this incident.

    I would love to see the ASAPs these guys will inevitably file. Now, the cynics out there say that the ASAP is a get out of jail free card, which it decidedly is not. It is as important to and investigation as any other component.

    As with most things Aviation related, the further you step back from...

    This is a textbook case of human factors. As mentioned earlier, fatigue and repetition figured into this incident.

    I would love to see the ASAPs these guys will inevitably file. Now, the cynics out there say that the ASAP is a get out of jail free card, which it decidedly is not. It is as important to and investigation as any other component.

    As with most things Aviation related, the further you step back from the flight deck, the more strident and "expert" the pontification becomes.

    I'll wait for the investigation. Kudos to the air traffic controller. All it takes to break up that chain of events which results in an accident is one person intervening in a procedurally correct and professional manner.

    1. Bob Guest

      The ASAP would look like this. "Due to being tired and complacency, I thought she said cleared for takeoff. Since that is what I was expecting." This kind of event is a get out of jail free. Report ASAP, do some remedial training, and move on.

    2. Ken Guest

      80 % of Aircraft incidents are Human error. I worked for Kalitta in the 90's Great company even with what disgruntled employee comments. We knew each other and I would do a test flight without a problem. The trust was there. Nowadays I see no pride in their work and people just want the money. Just laziness is what people want to give but they want the money for nothing. So I will call this...

      80 % of Aircraft incidents are Human error. I worked for Kalitta in the 90's Great company even with what disgruntled employee comments. We knew each other and I would do a test flight without a problem. The trust was there. Nowadays I see no pride in their work and people just want the money. Just laziness is what people want to give but they want the money for nothing. So I will call this miscommunication. By either side Human Factors is the cause. Way to go tower for keeping your mindset

  15. Frank Needham Guest

    Shades of Tenerife. No excuse.
    -former Pan Am and Kalitta pilot.

  16. Ced Guest

    Interesting thing is that the crew on the radio ( the PM ) ( don’t know if it is wether the PIC ( CM1 ) or the FO ( CM2 ) did acknowledge and read back the exact ATC message “ line up and wait.. “ and the crew still initiated the take off roll…Reasons could be a lack of communication among the crew ( CRM , share and verify that the ATC clearance is...

    Interesting thing is that the crew on the radio ( the PM ) ( don’t know if it is wether the PIC ( CM1 ) or the FO ( CM2 ) did acknowledge and read back the exact ATC message “ line up and wait.. “ and the crew still initiated the take off roll…Reasons could be a lack of communication among the crew ( CRM , share and verify that the ATC clearance is clearly understood by all flight crew member present in the cockpit ) and also as Bob said, the fatigue, habits with some time pressure on top of that…We do certainly need more details, these are just guesses, only the crew that was on duty that day know why that happened…

  17. Ed Guest

    Bigger fan of “ taxi into position and hold” . Controller correctly did not start throwing accusations about missing a clearance. After 20 years of ATC experience, you learn to wait until you hear the tape before you start telling people what happened. She did a nice job.

  18. Eskimo Guest

    After a whole day of debating, none of the comments are really pointing to a solution for this issue.

    It's time we automate the whole thing and remove human error out of the equation.

    1. OldCALGuy Guest

      Yeah, no doubt using the emerging self-driving technology as the model (Not!) Also, as we have seen with proposed ATC systems, no company will create an overarching smart technology without lawmakers giving them a blanket release of indemnity. I think that a combination of human control with a protecting umbrella of so-called smart technology is the solution. Look at the plethora of aircraft- and airfield-based incursion and proximity warning systems we have versus just 20...

      Yeah, no doubt using the emerging self-driving technology as the model (Not!) Also, as we have seen with proposed ATC systems, no company will create an overarching smart technology without lawmakers giving them a blanket release of indemnity. I think that a combination of human control with a protecting umbrella of so-called smart technology is the solution. Look at the plethora of aircraft- and airfield-based incursion and proximity warning systems we have versus just 20 years ago.

  19. DON KOORSE Guest

    As a retired 737 captain I find this inexcusable. Two pilots up front allow this to happen....at this point in time what else do they have to think about?

    1. Bob Guest

      It happens. How many AC have lined up or landed on the wrong runway? If we look at your past, I'm sure we'll find something you did wrong.

  20. Ralph Guest

    ATC should have said Taxi into position and Hold. The line up is not clear

    1. Tee Jay Guest

      "Taxi into position and hold" went away in the US at least 6 years ago. "Line up and wait" is used throughout the world and is now FAA regulation.

    2. Pete Guest

      I believe the change (to line up and wait) was one of numerous terminology changes made to standardize verbiage globally after Tenerife.

  21. Jonathan Guest

    They used a UPS 747-8F for the video…

  22. Mr.Postman Guest

    Kalitta is one of USPS partners, they probably running on the late errand of mails, if they late USPS probably won't pay them, because USPS has to return their customers money when the mail are late

    1. Bob Guest

      Isn't K4 mail run LAX-MCO and LAX-SWF?

  23. PegLegJim Guest

    Sometimes, an overbearing PIC can shut down a low hour FO to the point of no return, and it progresses too far, too fast.
    I hope that’s not what happened here.

  24. JJ Guest

    Ive worked that position. She did catch it, however she should have said" traffic will land runway 18C". Not, "traffic two mile final" That might have implied to the Connie crew that they were cleared for take off.

    1. FlyerDon Guest

      That’s a good point.

  25. Jusu Gow Guest

    Another Tenerife disaster avoided. Bravo to the ATC personnel

  26. Markus J Guest

    Confirmation bias

  27. Carlos Guest

    A green or red light on hold lines before entering the runway will eliminate that problem ! That’s like
    A secondary check in case the pilots get confused !

  28. Tom Guest

    I can see one of the pilots making the mistake but not both at the same time. There really is no excuse for this and people need to stop making excuses for it. Being an airline pilot has been dumbed down to incredibly low standards to accommodate the weakest links. It's sad but true.

  29. Paul Gold

    Good job by the controller.

  30. John P Timmins Guest

    If not fired they should be severely reprimanded. People's lives are at stake. Passengers are number one priority. Unintentionally they broke rule number one, but fortunately no one was injured. Retraining of proper procedures is in order to prevent something like this from accurring again.

    1. Bob Guest

      You're being a little over dramatic with the punishment. Remedial training is all they need. No firing or being reprimanded

  31. olga Guest

    Some of the words are so slurred from being spoken so quickly. 'line up' was unintelligible. Enunciation was at a minimum until the incident, or non incident. I couldn't have told you a lot of what was being said just from listening, but thank goodness there were subtitles. But the pilots? They ain't got subtitles.

  32. Robb H Guest

    Couple things:
    The tower told them to "cancel their takeoff clearance" rather "abort your takeoff" This could have somewhat indicated to the pilots that they HAD been cleared for takeoff.
    Second, once you are writing a phone number down, your mind goes to another place wondering "how bad did I screw up?" So after the first roll, I would not be in a real hurry to takeoff. I would have talked to the...

    Couple things:
    The tower told them to "cancel their takeoff clearance" rather "abort your takeoff" This could have somewhat indicated to the pilots that they HAD been cleared for takeoff.
    Second, once you are writing a phone number down, your mind goes to another place wondering "how bad did I screw up?" So after the first roll, I would not be in a real hurry to takeoff. I would have talked to the copilot and debriefed it before time to take off again. Another writer mentions fatigue, which can easily play in to these things. Time to slow down . . .

    1. Michael Guest

      "Cancel takeoff clearance" is standard verbiage. Yes, clearance was never issued, but the controllers are trained to speak in standard phrases, which makes sense when you consider you may be dealing with people who aren't native speakers of English. Plus, obviously, the plane was acting like they THOUGHT they had clearance. That is the standard phrase to order somebody to abort their takeoff attempt.

    2. ted poco Guest

      Kalitta is an US airline, English should be the pilot’s native language.

    3. Moe Guest

      I don't think they were implying the Kalitta crew were non-native English speakers...rather simply pointing out a fact of ATC communications in general.

  33. Steve R Guest

    ATC was very clear on instructions. Kalitta pilot confirmed 'line up 27 and wait". What's not available to hear/read is the internal cockpit communication between captain and first officer. That should be on the
    cockpit voice recorder. The key word is "wait" as do not go until you are cleared to roll, receive further instructions from ATC. Accident avoided though.

  34. Jos Guest

    Reminds me of a certain KLM flight..

    1. Bob Davis Guest

      Two factors no doubt contributed to this situation: fatigue and repetition.

      I have 30 years of commercial flying under my belt. Unless you have done this type of flying you cannot imagine the level of cumulative fatigue and the effects. And when you fly leg after leg after leg and hearing "cleared to . . ." over and over in your headset it is common to say, "Are we cleared (to land/take off)?" We...

      Two factors no doubt contributed to this situation: fatigue and repetition.

      I have 30 years of commercial flying under my belt. Unless you have done this type of flying you cannot imagine the level of cumulative fatigue and the effects. And when you fly leg after leg after leg and hearing "cleared to . . ." over and over in your headset it is common to say, "Are we cleared (to land/take off)?" We employ all sorts of memory jogs to prevent this, like light switches, but it still happens.

  35. George Guest

    Clearly the 747 crew screwed up.

    The ATC controller handled this thing as you should. The human aspect is still very prevalent in today's world no matter how much technology we have. I think you can thank VAS aviation for this information.

  36. Bob Davis Guest

    Two factors no doubt contributed to this situation: fatigue and repetition.

    I have 30 years of commercial flying under my belt. Unless you have done this type of flying you cannot imagine the level of cumulative fatigue and the effects. And when you fly leg after leg after leg and hearing "cleared to . . ." over and over in your headset it is common to say, "Are we cleared (to land/take off)?" We...

    Two factors no doubt contributed to this situation: fatigue and repetition.

    I have 30 years of commercial flying under my belt. Unless you have done this type of flying you cannot imagine the level of cumulative fatigue and the effects. And when you fly leg after leg after leg and hearing "cleared to . . ." over and over in your headset it is common to say, "Are we cleared (to land/take off)?" We employ all sorts of memory jogs to prevent this, like light switches, but it still happens.

    1. XPL Diamond

      Hey Bob, super helpful, and welcome! I hope you become a regular here. Most of us are mere passengers and it's always great to have the perspective of someone sitting behind the windshield.

  37. ASP Guest

    What is the reason the controller provides the phone number? Whom do the pilots reach when they call and what happens then?

    1. RetiredATLATC Diamond

      The # is usually to the supervisors desk and the pilots are told that a possible pilot deviation has occurred. The pilots info is taken down and a formal investigation is started.

    2. Ed retired JAXATC Guest

      There is also a way to self report pilot deviations that will protect you from FAA punitive actions. The number they would first get is probably the tower supervisor who would listen to the tape and tell them what was actually said. After that, the crew could self report and give accurate information.

  38. Buzz Guest

    Kalitta is also a big sponsor in NHRA Drag Racing with Doug Kalitta currently holding down first place in Top Fuel.

    1. Sosongblue Guest

      What on earth does that have to do with this incident? Or are you just providing superfluous information? Why don’t you add the 747’s first flight was in 1969?

    2. Buzz Guest

      Ben gave a little Bio of Kalitta air and Connie Kalitta.

      Sorry a couple of sentences ruined your day. Lighten up Francis.

    3. Charles Guest

      Oh should I mention the 747 has 4 engines too? Hope I didn’t ruin the rest of your day

  39. NycAlex Member

    Clearly Connie's fault, but I think what tripped them up was the controller told Connie that traffic is holding on the intersecting runway. Was that meant for Endeavor? Usually they would say as part of takeoff clearance, "Connie 690 heavy, traffic holding in position on the intersecting runway, cleared for takeoff." They likely interpreted that (again, their fault) as part of a takeoff clearance.

    1. NycAlex Member

      And I just realized, the controller DID say endeavor, it was just the subtitles on the video that are wrong. Disregard.

  40. Galoot Diamond

    Distracted or not paying full attention ?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Bob Davis Guest

Two factors no doubt contributed to this situation: fatigue and repetition. I have 30 years of commercial flying under my belt. Unless you have done this type of flying you cannot imagine the level of cumulative fatigue and the effects. And when you fly leg after leg after leg and hearing "cleared to . . ." over and over in your headset it is common to say, "Are we cleared (to land/take off)?" We employ all sorts of memory jogs to prevent this, like light switches, but it still happens.

3
RetiredATLATC Diamond

The # is usually to the supervisors desk and the pilots are told that a possible pilot deviation has occurred. The pilots info is taken down and a formal investigation is started.

3
Michael Guest

"Cancel takeoff clearance" is standard verbiage. Yes, clearance was never issued, but the controllers are trained to speak in standard phrases, which makes sense when you consider you may be dealing with people who aren't native speakers of English. Plus, obviously, the plane was acting like they THOUGHT they had clearance. That is the standard phrase to order somebody to abort their takeoff attempt.

2
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