Near Misses Prompt NTSB Recommendations

Updates in ATC procedures urged.

NTSB Near Miss
NTSB Near Miss

A series of near misses investigated by the NTSB has prompted the agency’s chairman Deborah Hersman to send a safety recommendation letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta urging the FAA to revise air traffic control procedures. The letter addresses separation standards provided by ATC at airports with multiple runways, where operations allow for simultaneous takeoffs and landings on runways with intersecting flight paths.

The letter references five incidents, three of which occurred at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, in which airplanes came within close proximity as a result of one of the airplanes executing a go-around while the other airplane was departing. In each case, the airplanes were controlled by two separate tower controllers operating on different frequencies, and the instructions provided would not have prevented a collision. “Instead, separation was established by resorting to impromptu evasive maneuvers by pilots during critical phases of flight,” the letter stated.

While none of the incidents resulted in an accident, the airplanes came very close. In one case, an Airbus A319 and a Cessna Citation Mustang came within 0.21 nm laterally and 100 feet vertically. In order to prevent these types of situations in the future, the NTSB recommends updates to FAA Order 7110.65, “Air Traffic Control,” to provide the same separation to airplanes going around as those taking off from and landing at airports with intersecting flight paths, as described in paragraph 3-9-8 of the order.

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