July 21, 2024

Southwest Flight Departs From Closed Runway After Brief Delay

Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

A Southwest Airlines flight departed from Portland, Maine on June 25 for a seemingly routine journey to Baltimore, Maryland. However, there was a significant issue; the plane took off without clearance as the runway and control tower were still closed at that time. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are conducting investigations into this incident in collaboration with the airline.

Controllers issued multiple warnings to the flight crew of Southwest Airlines about a vehicle present on the runway, but unfortunately, there was no response from the crew. In an audio recording obtained by WMTW, an air traffic controller can be heard informing the crew about the runway closure, stating, “Southwest just turning onto 29, just so you know there’s a vehicle in the runway still and it is closed.” Thankfully, the vehicle left the runway just as Southwest Flight 4805 began its takeoff.

Subsequently, air traffic controllers expressed concerns about the whereabouts of the Southwest plane that had taken off without authorization. The flight successfully landed at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Nevertheless, the potential consequences of the situation were grave, considering the size of the aircraft and the number of passengers onboard. Southwest Airlines provided the following statement to Simple Flying:

“Southwest Airlines is cooperating with the NTSB and FAA to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the early morning departure of Flight 4805 from Portland International Jetport on Tuesday, June 25. The flight proceeded safely to its destination.”

While a two-minute difference may seem insignificant, avoiding potential collisions involving airliners should be a top priority. Instances of near misses are becoming more frequent, with some reports citing over 40 such incidents per month. Despite efforts by federal regulators to enhance safety measures, the thin line between a near miss and a catastrophe underscores the importance of stringent aviation protocols.


1. What caused the Southwest Airlines flight to take off without clearance?

The Southwest Airlines flight departed without clearance due to the runway and control tower still being closed at the time of takeoff.

2. What actions are being taken by authorities regarding this incident?

The FAA and NTSB are conducting investigations into the unauthorized takeoff of Southwest Flight 4805.

3. How many passengers were onboard the Southwest Airlines flight?

The flight was carrying over 100 passengers.


The incident involving the unauthorized takeoff of a Southwest Airlines flight highlights the critical importance of adherence to air traffic control protocols and safety procedures. Swift action by controllers and vigilance by flight crews are essential in preventing potentially disastrous outcomes in aviation.

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