Airplane near collisions overview

FAA report statistics
FAA report statistics

(CNN/WABC/ – A near-mid-air collision at JFK Airport has led some to raise safety concerns.

But as CNN reports, planes get too close more often than you might think.

Last month at JFK, a Jetblue A320 taking off while another Jetblue regional plane was about to touch down. In a last minute move, the pilot approaching the runway decides to abort the landing, putting the two planes about one mile apart – closer than allowed.

“Anytime there is a loss of separation, we are concerned about it because it is not supposed to occur.” Robert Sumwalt, National Transportation Safety Board said.

April 24, a much more dangerous situation with a near mid-air collision over Newark.

A United Airlines 737 landing with 160 passengers on-board came within 150 yards of a United Express regional jet preparing to take off.

“Yeah we put the nose down he was really close,” the United pilot said.

The next day, a United 757 cruising at 33,000 feet over the Pacific gets too close to a U.S. Airways 757. The collision alert system goes off with one passenger saying the plane plunged without warning.

“For the past 30 years we’ve had an air traffic control system that has not been upgraded properly. Our controllers are basically in many cases overworked,” aviation consultant Michael Boyd said.

The latest FAA numbers show planes got too close 4,400 times within a year, and 41 of them were considered “high risk.”

“I think the FAA’s measure of safety is whether someone died or not. That’s not good enough,” Boyd said.

This is what can happen when planes get too close.

In 1991 a U.S. Air 737 at LAX landed on top of a Skywest commuter plane preparing for takeoff, 34 people died.

Accidents like this are incredibly rare because of collision avoidance systems now mandated planes.

“I hate to judge safety by the lack of accidents, but I will say this, and that is, Since TCAS has been installed, and used, we have not had a mid-air collision in this country involving two TCAS equipped airplanes. I think that says a lot,” Sumwalt said.

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