Sunday 16 December 2018

Aer Lingus plane in near miss nightmare after take-off error

Helen Bruce

AN Aer Lingus passenger jet came within seconds of colliding with another plane after both were mistakenly cleared to take off at the same time on intersecting runways.

The terrifying near miss at Logan International Airport in Boston took place on June 9, and involved an Aer Lingus Airbus A330 with 328 passengers bound for Shannon and a US Airways Boeing 737 carrying 103 passengers to Philadelphia.

One air traffic controller called the encounter "exceptionally close". No one was hurt in the incident which a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman yesterday called an "operational error" by air traffic controllers.

At 7.34pm, the Aer Lingus flight had just lifted off and was passing over Runway 9 as the US Airways jet accelerated on Runway 9, closing to within 200 to 1,000 feet of the other aircraft, officials said.

The federal aviation source said the Aer Lingus pilot has filed a near-collision report, which is required when pilots believe their plane came within 500 feet of another.

Such incidents have become less frequent since collision avoidance systems, which are required on planes with 10 or more seats, were installed in the 1990s. Around the same time, more sophisticated air traffic control systems were installed at airports.

FAA spokesman Jim Peters confirmed an investigation into the incident was underway, and said the National Transportation Safety Board was scheduled to release a preliminary report imminently.

Federal officials and officials at the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs the airport, did not disclose the near-collision until yesterday.

Aer Lingus spokesman Jack Foley said the plane's flight crew contacted Logan's control tower just after the incident "to report the close proximity of a second aircraft". The crew also called the airline's safety unit in Ireland.

The aircraft did not take any evasive manoeuvres and continued on a normal flight plan.

The anonymous air traffic controller told a Boston newspaper that mistakes were made in Logan's control tower that night. He said the crew was working with two employees short of full staff and there was also bad weather delays.

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