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'Photo attempt' pilot in near miss

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The incident took place above the Canadian coast.

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LONDON, England -- Air safety experts are investigating how a German passenger plane diverted off its authorized path to come 200 meters (600 feet) from a British holiday airliner.

The captain of a Thomas Cook airlines Boeing 757 was forced to veer out of the way of the Boeing 767 operated by Condor Airlines of Germany. The incident took place 10,000 meters (30,000 feet) above the coast of Canada on June 24.

The Condor captain left his designated route to get near a colleague piloting another Condor plane to take a photo of him on his last operational flight, according to British media reports.

But the Condor captain, with 234 passengers on board, mistook the Thomas Cook plane, carrying 187 passengers, for his friend's aircraft which was really 160 kilometers ahead.

The Condor captain and a co-pilot on the German plane have been suspended, the Press Association reported.

The Condor, flying from Frankfurt to Toronto, broke aircraft separation rules by flying so close to the British airliner, whose pilot reported the incident to Canadian air traffic controllers and to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority.

The Thomas Cook plane was flying from Gatwick to Toronto. A Thomas Cook spokeswoman told PA: "Our crew were flying on an agreed track when all of a sudden they got a warning on their TCAS collision avoidance system that another aircraft had entered their airspace.

"The captain carried out a textbook-style maneuver, taking the Thomas Cook aircraft out of danger and on to a higher flight path. Investigations continue by CAA and Gander Oceanic air traffic control as to why the Condor Boeing 767 entered the Thomas Cook Airlines UK flight path without authorization."

A Condor spokesman said he could not comment on the suggestion that the Condor pilot wished to take a picture of a colleague in another Condor plane.

The spokesman told PA: "Two pilots have been suspended. The plane left its allowed airspace and was closer than normal to another aircraft.

"There were TCAS anti-collision systems in both planes and the Condor aircraft descended when TCAS gave a warning. At no time was there concrete danger of a collision."

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