Skip to main content

Feds investigate 3 planes flying too close at DC-area airport

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu August 2, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A plane came within 800 vertical feet and less than one nautical mile of another aircraft
  • The incident occurred during adjustments for bad weather
  • US Airways says it is investigating
  • The NTSB said Thursday that it will investigate

Washington (CNN) -- Three U.S. Airways-operated jets at Reagan National Airport came closer than they should have because of an air traffic control "miscommunication," federal authorities said Thursday.

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon when air traffic controllers were making adjustments for landing and departing aircraft because of bad weather.

Chautauqua Airlines flight 3071 came within 800 vertical feet and .82 nautical miles after take-off of an arriving aircraft, identified as Republic Airlines flight 3329, authorities said.

TSA credits officers with rescuing kidnapped woman

The third plane involved was Republic Airlines flight 3467, which was taking off and came within 2.07 nautical miles and 800 vertical feet of the arriving flight.

"During the switchover of operations, miscommunication between the Tracon and the DCA tower led to a loss of the required separation between two regional jets departing from Runway 1 and a regional jet inbound for Runway 19," the Federal Aviation Administration said.

"Tracon," or terminal radar approach control, is a reference to a regional radar facility. "DCA" is the International Air Transport Association code for Reagan National Airport.

"At no point were the three aircrafts on a head-to-head course," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Listen to plane crash being averted

The FAA is investigating and plans to take "appropriate action to address the miscommunication."

"Such near misses and any operational errors are calls to action," said Rep. John L. Mica, R-Florida. "I'm asking our Aviation Subcommittee staff and FAA to thoroughly review what happened."

Based on tower recordings, a controller told one of the pilots to "hold on, we're trying to figure this out."

"We really don't have the fuel for this," the pilot responded. "We've got to get on the ground pretty quick."

The controller then said, "Everybody stand by. We've got a couple of opposite direction arrivals, so it's gonna be a little bit of a delay in your departures."

Passenger finds needle in Air Canada sandwich

US Airways issued a statement saying, "We are currently investigating and working with the FAA to determine what occurred. The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority."

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that it will investigate.

Its probe will involve a review of communications recordings and radar data, as well as interviews with supervisors and controllers in coming days, according to NTSB spokesman Eric M. Weiss.

"Safety is NATCA's top priority," added Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "We are always looking to enhance the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System, and we will participate in any investigation that looks into improving the system."

Last year, an air traffic controller was suspended for failing to respond to two planes heading into National Airport after he fell asleep on the midnight shift.

The two planes landed without incident.

Suspicious object that forces plane to divert is unclaimed camera

CNN's Mike Ahlers contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT