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NTSB Cites ATC Error As Probable Cause In Near Mid-Air

Embraer 145 Came Within 300 Feet Of A Cessna 172 At The Same Altitude

Today the NTSB cited an operational error by a tower air traffic controller as the probable cause of a near mid-air collision involving a commercial jetliner and a small private plane over the Gulfport-Biloxi airport.

On Sunday, June 19, 2011, at 1235 CDT at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, a Cessna 172 was cleared for takeoff on runway 18 by the tower air traffic controller. Sixteen seconds later, the same air traffic controller cleared an Embraer 145, a commercial passenger flight, for takeoff on runway 14, the flight path of which intersects the flight path of runway 18.

While both airplanes were about 300 feet above the airfield, the Embraer passed in front of the Cessna. The closest proximity between the two planes was estimated to be 0 feet vertically and 300 feet laterally.

The Embraer 145, operated as ExpressJet flight 2555 (dba Continental/United Express) was carrying 50 passengers and 3 crewmembers, and was bound for Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) where it landed uneventfully.  No one in either airplane was injured in the incident.

In May 2010, the NTSB held a forum to highlight the importance of developing and reinforcing the highest standards of professionalism in aviation. The issue area of pilot and air traffic controller professionalism was added to the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements in May 2011.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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