In a letter to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended safeguards to ensure proper aircraft clearance between departing and arriving planes at the nation’s airports.
This request to rethink air traffic control stems from five incidents in which jetliners “came within hazardous proximity” of each other, according to the safety organization. These incidents occurred when planes on their final approach aborted landing attempts and started go-around maneuvers that put them in dangerous proximity to other aircraft.
Four of the incidents occurred last year, with the most recent close calls occurring on July 30 at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport. In both cases, the near-accidents involved larger planes nearly coming into contact with smaller, regional jets.
FAA procedures do not have specific requirements for plane separation when aircraft are departing from different runways. Currently, air traffic controllers are free to clear a plane to land at a time when it could potentially stray into the flightpath of another plane in a go-around maneuver.
“In such situations, a flight crew performing a go-around may be put into the position of having to execute evasive maneuvers at low altitude and high closing speeds with little time to avoid a mid-air collision. The NTSB has determined that existing FAA separation standards and operating procedures are inadequate and need to be revised to ensure the safe separation between aircraft near the airport environment,” the agency said in a statement. - Jon Ross