Skift Take

Has a shortage of air traffic controllers or poor training contributed to a half-dozen near collisions in the U.S. since January?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Saturday it is investigating a near collision between a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and a Cessna Citation business jet in San Diego, the latest in a series of troubling U.S. aviation incidents.

The FAA said its preliminary review shows that just before 12 p.m. PDT on Friday, an air traffic controller at San Diego International Airport cleared the Citation to land on a certain runway even though Southwest Airlines Flight 2493 had already been told to taxi onto the same runway and await instructions to depart. The facility’s automated surface surveillance system alerted the controller about the developing situation and the controller directed the Cessna to discontinue landing.

A person briefed on the matter said the initial review shows the Cessna passed over the top of the Southwest airplane by about 100 feet. The FAA is sending a team to the facility to investigate.

Southwest said on Saturday it is participating in the FAA’s review of the incident. “Our aircraft departed without event and the flight operated normally, with a safe landing in San Jose as scheduled,” the airline said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating six runway incursion events since January.

A similar near-collision incident occurred in February in Austin, Texas, when a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Boeing 737 came within about 115 feet (35 meters) in poor visibility conditions. The controller had cleared the FedEx plane to land and the Southwest plane to depart.

On Thursday, the NTSB cited the failure of a Lear 60 charter pilot to get a takeoff clearance in a February incident in Boston that resulted in a near-collision with a JetBlue flight.

The NTSB said the airport surface detection equipment issued an alert, and the air traffic controller gave go-around instructions to the JetBlue flight.

The JetBlue Embraer 190 was just 30 feet (9.1 m) above ground when it broke off the landing “close to the point where both runways intersected,” the NTSB said, adding the Boston tower told the charter pilot the JetBlue flight passed about 400 feet above them.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Matthew Lewis)

This article was written by David Shepardson from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].


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Tags: faa, ntsb, southwest airlines

Photo credit: Southwest Airlines flights resumed flying August 12, 2023 after a brief nationwide stoppage. Source: Reuters

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