FAA, NATCA Term LAX Separation Error 'A Roll Of The Dice' | Aero-News Network
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FAA, NATCA Term LAX Separation Error 'A Roll Of The Dice'

Corporate Plane Came Within 1.6 Miles Of Landing Traffic

Officials are investigating why a Piaggio turboprop made a wrong turn on takeoff from Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Los Angeles last month, and strayed too close to two airliners on final approach to land at LAX.

The Los Angeles Times reports the chartered plane, an Avanti, was instructed to turn left on departure from HHR on the morning of June 13, a common vector to avoid the Class B airspace surrounding LAX, located two miles to the northwest.

Instead, the Avanti's pilot read back the instruction as a right turn... and the HHR tower controller did not correct the error. The turboprop wound up flying within 1.7 miles of a Skywest regional jet at the same altitude, and within about 1.6 miles of a Northwest 747 flying 400 feet lower.

"There was a severe loss of separation," said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus. "The required safety buffer between aircraft was violated." Mike Foote, area representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, termed the incident "a roll of the dice," and called the fact the Piaggio did not collide with the other aircraft "miraculous."

The Piaggio "was climbing and turning right through their flight paths," Foote added. "That's about as ugly as it gets. The aircraft didn't need to be where it was."

Now, there's no doubt the incident was serious... and uncomfortably recalls the 1978 midair collision between a PSA Boeing 727 and a Cessna 172 over San Diego, that killed 144 people. But these accounts are particularly breathless, especially compared with two recent separation incidents involving commercial airliners... with not a general aviation plane in sight.

As ANN reported, in two cases less than one week apart, landing traffic at JFK elected to go-around, putting those planes into conflict with traffic departing on a perpendicular runway. In both cases, airliners came within about a half-mile laterally and between 100-300 feet vertically, depending on whether controllers or the FAA were doing the talking.

The FAA and controllers termed those incidents serious, as well -- and they were. Both also spurred changes to arrival procedures at JFK. But they did not provoke use of such terms as "miraculous," or "a roll of the dice."

We'd really hate to think the agency and controllers union are trumpeting this incident because it involved a corporate aircraft...

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.natca.org

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