A chartered jet taxied without authorization across a Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport runway where an Alaska Airlines flight was supposed to land Saturday, forcing the Alaska pilot to abort his landing at the last second, the FAA said.
Alaska Airlines Flight 157 from Los Angeles was moments from touching down when it suddenly jerked upward, said Kerry Walsh, a Los Angeles business traveler who was on the flight.
It was "no more than 30 to 50 feet" above the asphalt, he said.
"They gunned the engines," Walsh said. "It took off like a rocket."
People on the plane gasped, he said.
"Captain came on a few minutes later and said another plane had wandered onto the runway," Walsh said.
A chartered Boeing 737 crossed the runway that Alaska 157 was supposed to land on, without authorization, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor wrote in an e-mail Sunday. Gregor said he didn't know who had chartered the 737.
An Anchorage air traffic controller told the pilot to cancel the landing and fly around for another approach, a maneuver called a "go-around," Gregor said. He didn't know the altitude of the Alaska flight when the pilot aborted the landing.
Gregor downplayed the incident Sunday, saying the FAA estimates the two jets were 8,500 feet, or more than a mile, apart and air traffic controllers followed routine procedures.
"Although a go-around is a standard and perfectly safe procedure, it's understandable that passengers can become alarmed if they don't understand what's happening," he wrote.
An Alaska Airlines representative didn't immediately return calls.
Walsh said the experience felt like a very close call. He wants to know how the incident could have been avoided.
"Somebody made a mistake," he said.
The FAA says it is investigating.