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Sun, Dec 09, 2007

Close Call At BWI Airport

Runway Incursion Being Investigated

According to a report by the Federal Aviation Administration, two commercial jets came within 300 feet of hitting each other last weekend at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. A Delta Connection regional jet took off and flew over a US Airways Airbus A320 that was landing on a crossing runway, officials said. The incident occurred about 7:25 p.m. Sunday, according to the Washington Post.

Delta Airline representatives said there were 43 passengers on the Delta Connection jet, which is operated by Comair and was headed to Boston. There were 150 passengers on the US Airways jet arriving from Phoenix. No one reported any injuries on either flight. FAA officials said that the US Airways pilots reported the incident, adding that the Delta Connection flight crew never saw the other plane.

An unidentified controller in the BWI tower improperly issued a takeoff clearance for the Delta Connection flight even though the US Airways plane was approaching the runway FAA officials said. FAA officials said a system that alerts controllers to potential runway collisions sounded, but not in time for the controller to take action. National Air Traffic Controllers Association officials declined to comment.

The runway incursion is being investigated by National Transportation Safety Board. Both carriers said they are cooperating with investigators.

Runway safety is a priority and has long been a focus of regulators, investigators and safety experts say. Due to an increase in the frequency of flights runways and taxiways are some of the busiest and most complex bits of real estate in the aviation system.

Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday that concluded that a "high risk of a catastrophic runway collision" because controllers are overworked and regulators are not focusing on the problem. The report noted that runway incursions have continued to increase since 2002.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.NTSB.gov

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