FAA investigating near-collision involving three US Airways planes
Three commuter jets narrowly avoided mid-air crash at a Reagan Washington airport after air traffic control incident
Matt Williams in New York
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 August 2012 16.55 BST
Civil air authorities said investigators are looking into an incident in which three commuter jets narrowly avoided a mid-air collision near the US capital.
The near-miss involving three planes operated by US Airways happened on Tuesday in skies close to Reagan Washington National Airport.
First reported by the Washington Post, the incident was reportedly caused by confused air traffic controllers who launched two outbound flights directly at another aircraft that was preparing to land.
According to the Post, two of the planes were within 12 seconds of crashing into each other. Having realised their mistake, the tower ordered an incoming pilot to take an abrupt turn to avoid impact
The three planes were reportedly carrying 192 passengers and crew members at the time of the incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acknowledged that it was aware of the incident.
In a statement, it said that “appropriate action to address the miscommunication” would be taken.
The FAA added that due to bad weather, air traffic controllers switched landing and departing operations and miscommunication “led to a loss of the required separation” between the jets.
US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said in an email to the Associated Press that the airline is “currently investigating and working with the FAA to determine what occurred”.
The near-miss comes a year after two passenger planes were forced to land without help from the tower at the same airport, after the lone air traffic controller on duty fell asleep.
That incident led to a review of staffing levels and worker fatigue at US airports.