Near Three-Plane Collision Averted After Air Traffic Controller Miscommunication At Reagan

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Credit: WNEW reporter Kevin Patrick

Credit: WNEW reporter Kevin Patrick

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - The Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation into an air traffic controller mishap that nearly ended in the flaming tragedy of a three-plane collision.

The Washington Post is reporting that air traffic controllers at Reagan National Airport had to take last second action after realizing two planes had been cleared to take off in the same path that another plane was using to land.

According to the Washington Post, the incident happened Tuesday when air traffic controllers were forced to re-route the flight patterns of planes due to inclement weather. Sources claim an incoming US Airways commuter jet was not made aware of the changes, and as it was coming in to land at Reagan, two other planes of the same company were heading directly towards it.

The report says the three planes narrowly avoided each other by a window of just 12 seconds, when the controller who failed to inform the commuter pilot of the changes originally, noticed the mistake and instructed the incoming plane to abort its landing pat and make an abrupt turn.

The three planes were carrying a total of 192 people.

The FAA said in a statement they are “currently investigating and working with the FAA to determine what occurred. The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority.”

A total of three air traffic controllers were involved in averting the crisis.

An aviation expert told WNEW’s Kevin Patrick, “If it is a last minute decision, and the decision is not fully and completely communicated between the tower and the air traffic controllers at Washington approach, then you can have exactly this kind of disconnect.”

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