The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating after two commercial planes had a near-miss over New York City last week. The planes, belonging to Delta Air Lines and Shuttle America, came dangerously close to colliding on June 13.
The FAA confirmed that the two planes were four-tenths of a mile apart horizontally and 200 feet vertically around 2:40 pm local time. The requirement is three miles horizontal separation or 1,000 feet vertically.
Delta’s Boeing 747 was arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport, while Shuttle America’s Embraer D170 was leaving LaGuardia Airport. The FAA added that the aircraft were “turning away from each other” when they reached their closest point.
Jason Rabinowitz, editor of NYC Aviation, reviewed air traffic control radio and radar tracking data of the incident, which was attributed to strong winds. He concluded that the controllers and pilots acted professionally during the planes’ near miss over New York City.
The incident happened as the Delta plane and an American Airways flight were preparing to land on parallel runways broke off their approaches close to the same time. While the control tower instructed the American flight to circle right, they told the Delta pilot to take a left.
While the tower would normally have instructed the Delta flight to make a right turn as well, a Boeing 777 for Transaero had just departed from the same runway. A right turn would have violated the wake turbulence separation requirement. However, the left turn put the Delta flight closer to LaGuardia’s departing traffic, including the Shuttle America flight.
The Delta pilot made a hard right turn, but it wasn’t soon enough. Because of this, the FAA was forced to call the incident a near miss. The two planes were at almost the same altitude and heading for each other at one point, but both pilots and controllers were aware of the situation. Both jets were in the process of turning away from each other to avoid a collision.
The majority of near-miss incidents happen between private planes, because they operate more on “see-and-avoid” principles. Commercial airliners are required to carry anti collision systems. The last mid-air collision over New York City happened in August 2009. A private plane and a tour helicopter crashed into each other over the Hudson River. Nine people were killed.