NTSB to look into near-collision

July 8, 2008 11:19:35 AM PDT
The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday it is investigating a near collision of two airborne jetliners at Kennedy Airport in New York over the weekend. The NTSB said initial reports indicate Cayman Airways flight 792, a Boeing 737-300, and Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile flight 533, a Boeing 767-300, almost collided on Saturday at 8:36 p.m. EDT.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said Monday the planes came no closer than 300 feet vertically and no more than a half-mile horizontally. But air traffic controllers said the planes came within 100 feet vertically and much closer than a half-mile horizontally, and controllers had to scramble to send them on divergent headings.

The FAA defines a near midair collision as an incident in which aircraft come within less than 500 feet of each other.

At the time, the Cayman flight was executing a routine "go around" -- an aborted landing, usually ordered by the control tower during periods of heavy congestion -- while the Chilean plane was departing from a nearby runway.

"Tower controllers intervened to attempt to resolve the conflict, assigning both aircraft diverging headings," NTSB said. "The closest proximity of the two aircraft has not yet been determined."

A spokesman for Cayman Airways said the company is disputing the classification of the incident as a near midair collision.

"We're treating it as a non-issue," said Olson Anderson, the airline's vice president of flight operations.

According to Anderson, the pilot of Flight 792 said the plane's Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, or TCAS, did not issue a warning. TCAS analyzes the projected flight path of approaching aircraft to alert pilots to potential collisions.

The board said a preliminary report on the incident is expected later this week.

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