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FAA Investigating ‘Frightening Near-Miss' at Miami International Airport: Experts

The FAA is looking into what multiple aviation experts told NBC 6 Investigators was a recent frightening near-miss at Miami International Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also trying to find out exactly what happened. NBC 6 discovered the pilots of a Qatar Airways 777 didn't use the entire runway they had available and aviation experts said it almost caused a disaster.

Surveillance video shows the huge jet getting airborne and a red flash.

An airport report shows the jet hit three aviation lights that stand about 15-feet tall and are up to 1,000-feet after the runway ends, not far from the airport fence line.

NBC 6 exclusively obtained images of the poles lying on the ground, and what it looked like when hours later, workers went out to inspect the damage.

"This is scary," said Jay Rollins, a former Navy pilot and retired American Airlines captain. "He took out the first two or three, so it's very serious. This aircraft should have never been in that position as it left the ground."

The Qatar Airways jet holds about 300 people. It was heading to Dohar, Qatar, in the Middle East. The damage to the 777 was discovered after it safely landed.

"Qatar Airways flight QR778 from Miami to Doha on September 15 was observed upon arrival in Doha to have damage near the rear cargo door. The flight was completed without incident and arrived in Doha at 17:12 (Doha time) on September 16," a spokesman for Qatar Airways said in a statement. "The safety and security of our passengers and crew is our foremost priority and the incident has been reported to the authorities. As such, Qatar Airways will have no further comment while the event is being investigated."

The FAA's initial report said: "Inspection revealed damage to underbelly of aircraft described as substantial."

"To be where he was and the position to actually hit the belly of the airplane, as he climbed out with approach lights for the other direction means that literally was going off the end of the runway as he got airborne and therefore, but for the grace of God, everyone would have been killed," Rollins said.

Just beyond the damaged lights is a public roadway, an employee parking lot and a fuel depot.

The Aviation Department said: "The runway was fully operational at the time of the incident."

But communications with the control tower indicate that instead of using the full runway, that's more than two miles in length, the pilot instead turned at an intersection known as T-1, leaving a 3,000-foot section of the runway unused.

Now investigators are using air traffic control audio to help determine why the pilots didn't use the full runway.

"It makes no sense for an airliner that big, that full of people, full of fuel, to take an intersection take off. He cut off the first quarter of the runway. So it's not surprising they wouldn't make it," Rollins said.

After striking the lights, the pilots continued on, apparently unaware their plane was damaged.

"I say that it's a near-tragedy and thank God that it didn't happen. It was very close. I mean it doesn't get closer," Rollins said.

NBC 6 emailed Qatar Airways multiple times, called them and spoke with their airport manager, but so far no official response from them on this incident.

The lighting system that was hit is going to be out of service until the middle of October.

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