Three US Airways jets narrowly avoided a midair collision with one another. On Tuesday afternoon, the planes were near Ronald Reagan Airport when they were within seconds of colliding. Airport air traffic controllers apparently mistakenly cleared two planes for takeoff into the path of on incoming plane.
The commuter planes had 192 passengers including crewmembers onboard. A pilot on one of the commuter planes said, “We had clearance, what happened?”
Based on the speeds of the planes and the trajectory of each, they were only 12 seconds from running into one another. On Thursday, the FAA released a statement that said the air traffic control had switched the airport’s landing pattern after a storm had developed. That information was not disseminated to everyone working at the control tower. The two planes that were outbound came within 600 feet of the aircraft that was headed for a landing.
When the switchover was taking place, miscommunication between the DCA Tower and Tracon led to the required separation between jets departing to be lost from Runway 1 and an incoming jet from Runway 19, said Laura Brown a spokeswoman from the FAA.
One air traffic controller realized there was an error and immediately ordered the flight that was landing to turn to avoid a collision. A spokesman for the airline said the FAA was investigating the incident and trying to determine what had occurred. He said no further comment would be given by the airline until the FAA had completed its investigation.