Monday, May 31, 2010

Growing number of near-misses in US skies alarms aviation officials

Washington: The growing number of aircraft near-misses in US skies is making civilian aviation authorities increasingly concerned and has prompted them to reexamine air traffic control procedures.

“Over the last weeks there have been a number of instances where separation was lost between aircraft and in some cases there was a bit of a delay of notification that obviously caused some concern,” Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.

He said that all these incidents, the latest of which occurred just on May 21, remain under investigation.

“Anytime you lose the required separation between aircraft, it’s unacceptable, and we work to figure out what happen and what we can do to prevent similar ones,” Lunsford pointed out.

More than half a dozen extreme near-misses have been reported by the FAA over the past two months, prompting the National Transportation Safety Board to launch an inquiry.

On Friday, the NTSB reported that an Airbus A319 passenger jet and a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane had been involved in an incident over Alaska a week ago.

The board said the Airbus, US Airways Flight 140, was carrying 138 passengers and crew and the cargo plane a crew of two when they “came within an estimated 30 meters vertically and a 530-meter lateral separation.”

The May 21 incident occurred at night near Anchorage International Airport as the cargo plane took off for Chicago and the US Airways flight was coming in for a landing from Phoenix, Arizona, the NTSB said in a statement.

The Airbus pilots scrapped their initial landing attempt due to tailwinds and after requesting new landing instructions from the control tower, were told to turn right and report back when they saw the 747 departing.

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