A major disaster was averted when the pilots of a Singapore Airlines (SIA) plane, which was hurtling down the runway for take-off, managed to stop the aircraft in time to avoid another plane about to cross its path.
Flight SQ16, a Boeing 777-300ER with 186 passengers and 18 crew on board, was departing from South Korea's Incheon airport for San Francisco last Thursday, when a Korean Air jet taxied near an intersection on the runway without permission.
A collision was avoided when air traffic controllers instructed the SIA pilots to immediately abort the take-off.
It is believed that the SIA plane, which was travelling at just under 200kmh, screeched to a halt less than 1.6km away from the intersection with the taxiway that the Korean Air jet was travelling on.
SIA confirmed the incident and said the emergency stop led to the deflation of several tyres, which forced passengers to disembark from the aircraft on the taxiway.
Nobody was injured, said its spokesman. Affected passengers were put up in hotels until the tyres were replaced, and the flight departed 19 hours later at about 1pm last Friday, she said.
The Korean Air jet, which was bound for the Russian city of St Petersburg, suffered less damage and departed about two hours after the incident, local media reported.
When contacted, a spokesman for the Korean airline told The Straits Times that he was unable to comment on the incident, which was being investigated by the country's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The ministry is expected to release its report in two or three weeks.
On whether the pilots had been suspended pending the official probe, he said: "I am not able to comment on this... We will have to wait for the report to be issued before making any remarks."
Former pilot H.R. Mohandas, head of the diploma in aviation management programme at Republic Polytechnic, said pilots are well aware of the procedures to follow in such an emergency, as these are well covered during simulator training.
"The impact of such an emergency stop is severe not just in terms of the damage it causes the aircraft, but also on the travellers," he said.
"So it's a blessing in disguise that this happened during take-off, which means everyone, including the cabin crew, would have been belted up. This explains why there were no injuries."