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Details Revealed of Near-Collision Close to JFK

Controller error almost caused catastrophe
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2012 3:02 AM CDT
Updated Aug 6, 2012 3:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – Investigators have released chilling details of a near-catastrophe close to New York City's JFK airport early last year. An American Airlines Boeing 777 came within seconds of crashing into an Air Force C-17 cargo plane because of mistakes and miscommunications by air traffic controllers, the report found. The cargo plane's wingtip came within 2,000 feet of the Boeing aircraft when the two should have been miles apart. Disaster was averted when onboard collision-avoidance systems went off, and the American Airlines crew made three evasive maneuvers in the space of a few seconds.

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The National Transportation Safety Board report found that the controller handling the Boeing was distracted by reading flight instructions to another plane, and failed to comply with a colleague's request to stop the plane from climbing to 22,000 feet. The problem was compounded by the fact that the plane kept communication with one controller when it had already passed into a different sector. Experts say the incident is especially worrying because it happened at a facility that handles America's busiest airspace and is staffed by some of the most experienced controllers, the Wall Street Journal notes. (Read more American Airlines stories.)

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