According to a report by the Federal
Aviation Administration, two commercial jets came within 300 feet
of hitting each other last weekend at the Baltimore-Washington
International Thurgood Marshall Airport. A Delta Connection
regional jet took off and flew over a US Airways Airbus A320 that
was landing on a crossing runway, officials said. The incident
occurred about 7:25 p.m. Sunday, according to the Washington
Delta Airline representatives said there were 43 passengers on
the Delta Connection jet, which is operated by Comair and was
headed to Boston. There were 150 passengers on the US Airways jet
arriving from Phoenix. No one reported any injuries on either
flight. FAA officials said that the US Airways pilots reported the
incident, adding that the Delta Connection flight crew never saw
the other plane.
An unidentified controller in the
BWI tower improperly issued a takeoff clearance for the Delta
Connection flight even though the US Airways plane was approaching
the runway FAA officials said. FAA officials said a system that
alerts controllers to potential runway collisions sounded, but not
in time for the controller to take action. National Air Traffic
Controllers Association officials declined to comment.
The runway incursion is being investigated by National
Transportation Safety Board. Both carriers said they are
cooperating with investigators.
Runway safety is a priority and has long been a focus of
regulators, investigators and safety experts say. Due to an
increase in the frequency of flights runways and taxiways are some
of the busiest and most complex bits of real estate in the aviation
Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday
that concluded that a "high risk of a catastrophic runway
collision" because controllers are overworked and regulators are
not focusing on the problem. The report noted that runway
incursions have continued to increase since 2002.