Investigation at DC Airport after Three US Airways Jets in Near-Collision

UPDATE: The FAA’s Michael Huerta now says, “At no point were the three aircraft on a head-to-head course. They were not on a collision course.” He does admit there was some miscommunication that led to a loss of the required separation between the planes and that this “loss of separation should not have occurred.”

Earlier:

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why three US Airways commuter jets narrowly avoided colliding in mid-air Tuesday afternoon near Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

5 Most Dangerous Airports

Seconds Away from Colliding

According to reports, two of the planes came within a mile-and-a-half of each other, which may not sound close but given the speed of the aircraft they were literally seconds away from colliding. The third aircraft was a mile further back.

All three planes, carrying a total of 192 passengers and crews, landed at their respective destinations safely and there were no reports of injuries but the FAA is treating the incident with utmost seriousness. The airline has said it is cooperating fully.

Confessions of Air Traffic Controllers

Reports of Confusion Among Controllers

Initial reporting cites audio recordings that suggest, at minimum, “confusion” among flight controllers, but there is no official word on who did what wrong. It is also unclear how much of a part storms in the area played.

When Pilots Make Mistakes

One analyst has said the situation could have turned into a complete disaster, except that, “in the end, a controller [was] paying attention, finally, and a pilot did all the right things in the right moment.”

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Published: August 2, 2012