Five Reported Incidents In May
The FAA is investigating a startling increase in near-miss
incidents over three of New York's major airports, seven this year
so far -- five of which occurred in May.
By definition, a near-miss is two aircraft in flight that come
within 500 feet of each other. Aircraft are to stay at least 1,000
feet apart vertically and three miles horizontally, according to
The five that occurred in May happened near John F. Kennedy
Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and Stewart
International Airport in Newburgh, according to WCBS TV News:
- On May 1 near SWF, a JetBlue airliner reportedly came within 30
feet of another plane.
- On May 5 near EWR, a Continental Airlines jet came within 300
feet of a glider.
- On May 9, near EWR, a JetBlue jet came within 500 feet of
- On May 17 near JFK, an American Eagle commuter jet came within
200 feet of a helicopter.
- On May 21, near EWR, a Continental jet came within 200 feet of
The FAA said this information is based on Traffic Collision
Avoidance Systems onboard the planes involved sounding alerts.
Officials were quick to assign blame for the too-close
encounters. "The FAA has been penny wise and pound foolish on
modernization, on controllers, (and) on technology," said New York
Senator Charles Schumer.
According to the National Air Traffic Controller's Association,
1,000 controllers have left the field in the last two years,
leaving those that remain fatigued.
"This is a concern because of fatigue. We have less people
working, which means we are going to have more people working
positions longer and traffic longer," said NATCA spokesman Dan
"Air travelers should be seriously concerned about their
safety," said Phil Barbarello of the controllers union, saying more
controllers need to be hired, according to the New York Post. "The
margin of safety is as low as I have ever seen, and I've been with
the agency for 23 years."
"This represents an unacceptable risk to the safety of air
passengers and people on the ground," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler
(D-Manhattan). Nadler also acknowledged he didn't know
"whether these near-misses are the cause of too many planes in the
sky or overworked and understaffed air traffic controllers."
JetBlue disputes claims about its involvement in two of the
near-misses. While acknowledging TCAS alerts did sound in its
planes, the carrier told the FAA the company's internal
investigation indicated there was actually a greater distance
between the aircraft, and has asked the FAA to investigate.
American Eagle spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said no passengers
were ever in danger.
"There was no need for our pilots to take any evasive
maneuvering," Huguely said.