Updated: Whoa, That Airplane Is Really Close To Ours

Jon was freaked out when flying on Jetblue and his flight came in close proximity to another aircraft. He wonders if he should, and how he might, report such an incident. His story, and advice we got from an Air Force pilot, inside…

UPDATE: A former Air Force flight safety officer chimes in with some points to clarify about what our Air Force pilot had to say…

Jon writes:

We were about 20 minutes into the flight when the plane made a very sharp (~30 degree) bank to the right and went nose down. A few seconds after the maneuver began the plane began to shake violently. We eventually leveled off and went back to our original altitude. The pilot came on the PA and said that air traffic had given another plane a route to altitude in our path and that we had gone through it’s jetwash. He then stated that basically we got too close. Later in the flight he was announcing our descent and must have hit a pocket of turbulence mid-sentence and we could all hear his voice shaking and he was taken by surprise. After talking to folks on the other side of the airplane (I was in the left side window), they saw the plane and said it was ridiculously close.

I asked my Air Force pilot buddy, Stephen Migala. He was able to explain what probably happened, and how the best way for you to take action is to lobby your reps for more funding for modernizing our current air traffic control system. His response:

The term the pilot used for the jetwash was probably wake turbulence. What your reader experienced is actually quite common, unfortunately.

Envision the skies as you would the U.S. Interstate system, a series of highways that come together around major cities/airports. The amount of traffic dramatically increases the closer you are to these places. Because of noise abatement procedures and what are known as departure and approach corridors (feeder ramps to align you with a runway) there is a very limited way to transition out of these airports and busy airspaces onto these sky highways literally called “jet routes.” Consequently there are a lot of planes in a small amount of space. The FAA does its best to secure and divide the spaces into airspace that air traffic controllers regulate. Obviously it is impractical and difficult to control and talk to everyone flying around, especially smaller commuter or single engine prop planes, so procedures are in place to allow them to fly in certain areas without talking to controllers. The thought is that it is their responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft, meanwhile the larger planes in contact with air traffic control share a responsibility for avoidance with most of the impetus resting with the controllers that rely on passive radar signatures and hopefully working radar beacons equipped on all of these planes. It was these very beacons which likely caused the abrupt maneuver. It was what is known in the field as a Resolution Advisory (RA) from a traffic collision avoidance system. (Ref Wikipedia for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TCAS) A computer on board each equipped airplane searches for other signals and beacons, analysis their position and movement relative to itself and if it is projected to or does get close enough it advises the aircrew of an impending threat. It is only in this case of an computer-advised threat that pilots are authorized to deviate from their assigned air traffic control instructions. Because it is so last minute the maneuvers have to be aggressive to avoid a collision. The aforementioned wake turbulence would then likely describe the violent shaking as the maneuvering plane probably passed the air that the threatening plane disturbed as it flew through creating vortises and unstable air that disrupt normal airflow around the wings producing lift and even into the engines for combustion.

I cannot knowledgeably speak to the consequences for controllers. I know it is not good. A repeated amount will have them in trouble and if the offended planes file what is known as a HATR (Hazardous Air Traffic Report) there could be a mini investigation to find out why such a dangerous situation developed. The FAA does track these and there is accountability. Not to try to take away any empowerment from the consumer but there is an inherent problem in allowing people/passengers to report such incidents. The when, where, how, and why would be unknown as would the circumstances resulting in more paperwork and money and no results. Most of the pilots flying around have thousands upon thousands of hours of experience and training and they cannot sometimes avoid it or figure out how it happened. Tracking this down other than through the filed paperwork by experts in the field and through quality assurance at the air traffic control centers is fiscally impractical at the level that these incidents currently occur. I currently know of no system in place to report such events by the flying public. I would however think that it is public domain to know the frequency of such occurrences and I ‘m pretty sure there are statistics available about this but it would require a lot of digging.

Not to lessen the trauma of such an incident for the helpless passengers but it is unfortunately an increasing commonality as the US national airspace system designed decades ago struggles to accommodate far more planes and passengers than it ever planned for. These incidents are obviously not a result of the airline but of a series of minor lapses and oversights that occur daily by controllers and even pilots which happen to snowball into an event like this.
One of the best ways to take action is to demand from your representatives more funding and a restructuring of the national airspace system to modernize itself. The FAA has also cut back on controllers and many of them are overworked and underpaid for their unnoticed work in helping millions commute safely everyday, more of a voice and public backing for them would surely be appreciated.

Flying is still by far the safest mode of transportation but being the best doesn’t excuse not striving for perfection, especially when lives are at stake. I hope this helps some. While you’re at it maybe a few disgruntled comments about the TSA would help too, the complacency generated by the appearance of security and ironically fear mongering is just as great of a danger.

Here’s a great post Carey wrote about how to most effectively write a letter to Congress.

(Photo: Getty)

UPDATE: Reader Brian, a former Flight Safety Officer at the Moody Air Force Base, has a few points he wants to clear up about Stephen’s response:

Your Air Force friend is looking at this from the Air Force’s point of view, not the civilian point of view. I was a Flight Safety Officer in the Air Force at Moody AFB, and have investigated the Hazardous Air Traffic Reports (HATRs) he mentioned. However, civilians do not file that form normally, that HATR is strictly an Air Force Form 651. Civilians normally file the NASA Aviation Reporting System form (http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/) , and this in most cases will protect the pilot filing the form of any punishment as it is used to improve safety in aviation system. The only time a HATR is filled out by a civilian is when someone calls the base because of an incident (near miss usually) with a military aircraft. Only the Air Force investigates and tracks HATRs. The FAA does not get involved with HATRs unless it directly involves an FAA resource such as a radar, published procedure, FAA-owned navigational aid, or an FAA controller action.

Also, he is only partially correct on the departure and arrival corridors. Some are for noise abatement, but all are for giving aircraft a way to transition to/from the airways. He said “Obviously it is impractical and difficult to control and talk to everyone flying around, especially smaller commuter or single engine prop planes, so procedures are in place to allow them to fly in certain areas without talking to controllers” is incorrect and misleading. Of course small planes can fly around at low altitudes without talking to controllers, but not commuter planes. They have different routes to fly at the lower altitudes, but they still talk to controllers. Also, when the president visits a city, everyone within 30 nautical miles is required to talk to an air traffic controller, or they get a personal airshow from an F-16 until they land.

His quote “most of the impetus resting with the controllers that rely on passive radar signatures and hopefully working radar beacons equipped on all of these planes” is also misleading. If the radar beacons are not working, they are not allowed into airspace above 10,000 feet and will get a very non-efficient route until it is working. ATC radar is actually active in nature by sending out a signal and getting a return. Passive is where a system just listens for information instead of sending out a “request,” in this case the radar signal. TCAS is actually a passive system relying on the ATC radar to generate a return from other aircraft’s’ beacon, and then it is shown on the pilot’s display. The rest is correct about TCAS.

“..is unfortunately an increasing commonality as the US national airspace system designed decades ago struggles to accommodate far more planes and passengers than it ever planned for,” is not an accurate quote. The National Airspace System can handle the amount of airplanes in it now and more in the future. In fact, the number of cruising altitudes was doubled in 2005, going from 2000 foot separation to 1000 foot separation above 29,000 feet to 41,000 feet. Yet delays were not reduced. The largest problem is the lack of runways built to handle the traffic. The true on ramp and off ramps to the highways in the sky are runways, and until the laws of physics change, only on airplane can land or takeoff on a runway at a time.

As a somewhat recent hire into the field of Air Traffic Control, I appreciate his appreciation of our hard work in the field despite the current relationship with those who are making it harder for us to do our jobs. The FAA didn’t exactly cutback on the number of controllers, they just failed to hire replacements in a timely manner in an effort to reduce payroll for the demanding, high stress job that is air traffic control.

Thanks,
Brian

Comments

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  1. Silversmok3 says:

    If you have a near miss in an airplane, there’s not too much you can do about it unless you’re the pilot.

    And if there’s a midair fender-bender youll have bigger problems then which agency to file a compaint with.

  2. SkokieGuy says:

    Thankfully there is no need to address this problem through modernizing our air traffic control system.

    Jet fuel prices, the bankruptcy of five airlines in the past few months and the grounding of hundreds of planes by multiple carriers should sufficiently reduce airport skyway congestion, eliminating these close calls.

    You know with teh internets, perhaps we could outsource air traffic control? Why pay high prices for people to sit in those towers? A few webcams and we could have “Hello My Name is Debbie” from overseas managing our airspace (and taking your McDonalds drive-in order!).

  3. ras_d says:

    Arent the air traffic controllers still relying on Towers and radar systems when they could (albeit at a hefty price) switch to Satellite-based traffic control?
    I had one of these “near misses” and it kept me from flying for a few years….very troubling

  4. banmojo says:

    Wow, that was quite thought provoking. I’ve often wondered how close is too close, but would have assumed that sucking ‘wake turbulence’ from a close pass by is TOO EFFING CLOSE!!!

    I’ve had big jets pass by close enough to make out faces through the little window ports, and thought that that was already too close, but this story one ups anything I’ve yet experienced (thank God!)

    Yikes! (Thanks to AF person for the valuable info, and for being our AF hero of the day ;^)

  5. Fallom says:

    I think the Air Force pilot’s response pretty much covers anything anybody could ask about this issue.

  6. Wake turbulence hangs out for 2-4 minutes, depending on the jet. It doesn’t necessarily mean “close call”.

    Though it is scary. I’ve taken hundreds of flights over the last 30 years and only had one wake turbulence scare coming out of a very busy Frankfurt.

  7. JeffDrummer says:

    Interesting fact, most air traffic control could be done more effectively and cheaper using GPS, but the air traffic controllers’ union doesn’t want that.

    Thats what I what to “lobby” my Congressman for.

    True story.

  8. Imaginary_Friend says:

    I think someone needs to start a consumer website dedicated to reporting these incidents. Looks like http://www.holyshitthatwasclose.com is available.

  9. MissPeacock says:

    Something similar happened to me last year when I was flying back to Birmingham. We were just about to land (and I mean, we were *really* close to the ground), when all of a sudden, we pulled up and accelerated quickly. The pilot came on the intercom and said that another plane was crossing the runway and we could have hit them if we had landed. Quite scary.

  10. Every time somebody talks about “Flying Cars” in the future, I think about things like this.

    People can’t operate motor vehicles currently in two dimensions – if even professional airline pilots have this problem, imagine the idiot down the street in his flying DeLorean!

  11. JeffDrummer says:

    @ras_d: Oh you said it before me, but its a major capital improvement, and it could be done with private business, so the government wouldn’t be there to mess it up, and we wouldn’t be on the hook for it.

    I have a feeling our next President will not be willing to expand capitalism, or please Americans at the expense of unions, but maybe someday we can do the logical thing with air traffic control and privatize/ modernize (under government jurisdiction and guidelines of course, no one wants air traffic control to be held in the hands of someone irresponsible)…

  12. dmbbnl429 says:

    Good thing Maverick was in control!!

  13. picardia says:

    This gives me chills.

    I may write Congress, but ask them to improve Amtrak funding/track priority.

  14. That wasn’t a near miss…it was a near HIT!

    We miss ya, George.

  15. dweebster says:

    @JeffDrummer: Hasn’t capitalism expanded enough? The commies in China are doing it better than we ever did, and thanks to our business-owned politicians they’ll keep on doing it to us.

    True, without those pesky unions mucking up the god(less)-given right of the bosses to deny a stake in innovation, healthcare, the right to air grievances, and other taboo items, “expanded capitalism” would also be able to wreck our country faster, too. Maybe there’s a well run company like Enron, Bear Sterns, Countrywide, Diebold, etc. that can step up to the plate and revolutionize air traffic, too.

    Can’t wait to jump into a plane that’s managed by software built by the same clowns that gave us Ohio 2004. At least the malfunctions and crashes will be disproportionately weighted toward those who bought the anti-union rhetoric as well as the rising cost of tickets.

  16. Arcadian says:

    @InfiniTrent: Actually, I think that’s part of what is holding up the Moller Skycar. I believe a lot of their funding went into preparing a satellite-based ‘skyway’ system for their future pilots.

    I think I’ll go a-hunting and see what I come up with, as I have no idea what the status of that is.

  17. dweebster says:

    @edicius: R.I.P., Mr. Carlin. We hardly knew ye.

  18. ophmarketing says:

    Wasn’t ‘wake turbulence’ essentially what brought down that American Airlines flight over Brooklyn in November of 2001?

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    Hat’s off to Stephen Migala! Well-written and informative. Thanks!

    To the Freepers, one word: Haliburton. You had your shot and the results speak for themselves. Will you ever learn from mistakes of your own making? To the back of the line with you.

    I’ve read that one of the causes of rising congestion is the mini-airlines owned by the biggies, so that they can post 20 JFK/National flights a day. All ten of them. Pawned off on no-union, less trained, less maintained charter fleets. If the majors would constrain themselves to several flights a day (times ten) instead of the dozen, it’d reduce congestion without impacting service much, and lead to fewer near-misses.

  20. NoLongerInUse says:

    Wake Turbulence can last for 3 minutes and it travels back and downward. You can hit it without being in a near miss. This is a common issue for small aircraft to avoid landing or taking off directly behind a larger one since it can flip the plane.

    @ophmarketing Yes, I think so.

  21. sir_eccles says:

    @ophmarketing: I think technically it was an incorrect response by the pilot to wake turbulence, i.e. overly aggressive rudder input which caused the rudder to fail.

    On another matter, it is important to remember that it is very difficult to judge distances in clear air without a frame of reference. Therefore although you can see the other plane apparently flying quite close, you really have no idea of the separation distance.

  22. kepler11 says:

    @Trai_Dep:
    “…I’ve read that one of the causes of rising congestion is the mini-airlines owned by the biggies…Pawned off on no-union, less trained, less maintained charter fleets…..”

    do you think or do any research before spouting uninformed bullshit?

  23. Triborough says:

    One thing I remember being told by someone in the aviation industry once was always wear your seatbelt even when the seatbelt sign is off. I am guessing the maneuvers on the flight being described are the exact sort of thing behind that.

    @ophmarketing: That was American 587. It went down in Belle Harbor, Queens.

  24. Joe Hass says:

    Trai_Dep: in the immortal words of Phillip Fry, “you’re close, but you’re way off.” It’s the crowding of the airways by a lot of smaller planes. Basically, the airlines would rather fly four smaller jets than one big or two medium ones.

    This does not discount the other comments raised here (the antiquated ATC system, insistence on old-style IFR flight rules, etc).

    Triborough: you are correct, sir.

  25. Chese says:

    TCAS works pretty well to avoid these issues. Wake turbulence was involved in the NY AA crash but not the sole factor. Now this doesn’t stop hotshot military pilots from buzzing other aircraft. [www.aopa.org] Classy.

  26. scottr0829 says:

    @MissPeacock: That’s a go-around and more common than you would think when flying. Pilots train for that maneuver many times in their training routines and even have to learn to do it on one engine.

    Regulations say there can only be one moving aircraft on the runway at a time, so anytime another aircraft comes close and may not stop, the pilot (or controller in the tower) can call for a go around. Of course, go-arounds can happen for many more reasons also.

  27. ARP says:

    @kepler11: Actually, he’s not that far off. Companies like Mesa, American Eagle, etc. tend to have less experienced employees, with a lower union headcount. But as Joe Hass mentions, its the numerous commuter jets that are the bigger part of the problem. They require just as much time, airspace, etc. as a big jet and carry 1/4 (or less) the passengers. The small airlines do this to save on costs and offer more flight times. But in the end it costs them more money due to the costs of delays (fuel prices, OT, operating costs). Of course, nobody wants to be the only company that cuts back on their commuter flights as the other airlines will pick up those take off spots, so nobody will blink (google “tragedy of the commons”).

  28. SpdRacer says:

    @Silversmok3: Well, if you have a “near-MISS”, you pretty well screwed, cause you just hit something.@Fallom: Agreed.

  29. JeffDrummer says:

    @dweebster: OK that is an absurd argument, the GDP per person in China is over 10x less than America.

    It is romantic to think that Communism works well, but it just doesn’t.

    In China there is no such thing as land ownership (except to very few) nearly no one owns a house (they are all leased from the government)…

    I am going to go on a limb and assume that you have never been to China. The cities are indeed almost as nice as American cities, Shanghai is absolutely amazing, unlike anything you would ever see, however just past the city, slums unlike anything you could imagine.

    So you really want Communism? Yes, America has its slums, I have been through some bad neighborhoods in Birmingham, NoLa, and right here in Buffalo… nothing close to China.

  30. gliscameria says:

    @ras_d:

    Ditto. Why not use sat based navigation, have the planes positions all tracked and run them through a model that would warn of future collisions? We can’t honestly still be using only radar to keep track of these things?

  31. Silversmok3 says:

    @gliscameria:

    As usual, it comes down to money.When there was a near miss at Ohare some months back, an ATC manager laid it out:

    Its about the fact that upgrading costs money, and changing over from the old system to a new ground-up ATC system requires:
    A training all the pilots internatinally to recognize the new system.
    Physically building a secure ATC network from scratch that , again, works internationally.
    Training the ATC staff to use the new system
    And finally adapting from the old to the new.

    No one wants to be responsible for an air crash/accident because of a transitonal ‘glitch’or a computer bug in the new ATC sattelite/GPS system.

  32. JeffDrummer says:

    @gliscameria: I explained why, they have wanted this for years, its the unions.

  33. Concerned_Citizen says:

    As long as the computer is authorizing a deviation from a flight path before you hit and with enough time to avoid hitting, there is no problem. How long do plane wakes last behind a plan? If it is a couple of minutes, this probably wasn’t as close as people think.

  34. Amazingly, in the span of just 33 comments we’ve seen the following two solutions to this problem:

    More unions!
    … and …
    … wait for it …
    More Communism!

    Does anyone actually, seriously believe that the situation would be remedied by either of these, or are these just reflexive responses to any issue that involves large corporations and government regulation?

  35. DH405 says:

    There is already a huge group of projects meant for completely modernizing these systems. One of the managers for a few of these projects is in my immediate family. Believe me, things will be MUCH better in the future.

  36. Nerowolfe says:

    With all the airlines cutting back flights (as well as a few bankruptcies), this should happen less and less.

  37. RedShirt says:

    If it was an official incident (i.e near miss, Clear Air Turbulance, etc), I believe the crew would be required to file a report with the NTSB. If so, it would show up here: [ntsb.gov]

  38. RedShirt says:

    Fixed link: [ntsb.gov]

  39. ywgflyer says:

    @banmojo:

    Actually, the wake from some aircraft (757s are major offenders in this arena, as are pretty much anything with a high wing load, like RJs) can persist for up to… 5 minutes, or so. I’ve eaten wake turbulence off a 757 while being about six minutes in trail (mind you, I was flying something considerably slower-climbing – a Beech Travelair), so it’s possible. That would work out to about 30 miles of spacing (give or take), far more than the three miles required in terminal airspace (and five miles enroute, or outside of Class B and C airspace, the kind that normally surrounds major airports).

    Hence TCAS. Wish my airplane had it. But it’s a Metroliner, so it’d probably double the value of the airplane ;)

    @MissPeacock: As scottr0829 said, going around isn’t a once-in-a-million event. Your pilot was probably going as slow as he could, trying to give the other guy time to clear the runway, and it just didn’t happen in time. It happens, and usually at the most annoying time, especially when the airplane in front of you swore up and down he’d make a specific exit, then goes blazing past it at Warp Nine, forcing the guy behind him to go around. Be glad you didn’t have a truck pull out in front of you as you came over the fence, as happened to me not terribly long ago (at a northern strip, where security might just be Chinese to the airport operators) ;)

  40. Forkboy3 says:

    Sat Navigation is one of those things that sounds simple. But remember, it’s not only the ground-based equipment that would need to be upgraded. ALL of the avionics equipment in all the commercial and civilian airplanes in the US would have to be upgraded. And then what about the rest of the world? It would still be on the old system of VORs, etc. So in order to replace the current system, you’d have to have a transition period of several decades where both systems were in operation…..sounds like a nightmare.

    Also, what’s the big deal with this story and the other stories of close calls? I had similar incident landing at John Wayne Airport in CA. Civilian aircraft strayed into the path of our plane, which then had to make a quick turn to avoid it. There was no crash so the system worked. Commercial airlines have warning system that will warn them before a mid-air collision. When was the last time there was a mid air collision involving a commercial airliner in the US?? Been a while. Why spend 100′s of billions of dollars replacing a system that works just fine. Sure, it could always use some upgrades, but lets not get our panties in a bunchl.

  41. ElizabethD says:

    Ugh. Unless I have to travel overseas, I am sticking to transport that touches the earth’s surface at all times.

  42. BK88 says:

    @JeffDrummer: Aboslutely, 100% WRONG! The
    majority of airplanes use GPS today, and the controllers union is not
    against upgrading. Read some information before spouting your verbal
    diarrhea.

    The controller’s want the FAA to upgrade the system, just not all at
    one time, but in small steps to make sure it works and not to some
    politician’s family member.

    @JeffDrummer: You must be a member of the
    ATA saying those things. How well as the FSS privitization gone? NOT
    WELL, in fact very poorly! Read some stories about the private company
    running the ATC system in Austrialia and it will change your mind. Plus
    user fees will KILL General Aviation just like it did in Europe. Fuel
    taxes are fair and collected with minimal cost instead of tracking
    every flight and then billing the user.

  43. Trai_Dep says:

    @kepler11: My source is Patrick Smith’s Ask the Pilot column and book [www.askthepilot.com.] He’s well regarded by the wings-on-their-collar types, so I figure he knows more about such things than I do. And, I’d bet, a great deal more than you do.

  44. Trai_Dep says:

    @kepler11: And, Freeper guys, you realize when you call us to cite our refs, we can, right? We’re not dittoheads, fercrissakes.
    We’re happy to. Makes you guys look foolish and allows us to reinforce our point. Again. Meanwhile, your retort is… Poorly sourced ad hominems?
    It doesn’t really make your position look more persuasive. At all.
    Quit while you’re ahead?

  45. Trai_Dep says:

    @Joe Hass: It could be a combination of the commuter flights and the mini-airlines chartered by the major carriers? It’s been a while since I read Smith’s article, but what you’re saying was one of his major points: smaller planes take the same “slot” as a jumbo-jet, only much less efficiently, leading to our current overcrowding. Thanks for the clarification.
    And as ARP says, it’s a Tragedy of the Commons. Maybe rising fuel prices will help fix this?

  46. Nick1693 says:

    @ophmarketing: November?

  47. Nick1693 says:

    @ophmarketing: Oh, Sorry, we I didn’t hear about that. I was young at the time (I’m 13 now.)

  48. x23 says:

    “It’s called Thunderbird.”

  49. llryuujinll says:

    @BK88: I believe that while the planes do use GPS, I do not believe the ATC track planes by GPS. The current GPS plane tracking system running are a sort of trial run for the FAA. A private company will be running the new nationwide GPS tracking system. So your fears might be realized.

  50. Bobg says:

    About 20 years ago I was flying into BWI on a commercial airline flight from San Francisco. It was night and the the weather was clear. As soon as the plane’s wheels touched the runway the pilot gunned the engines and took off again. I knew that touch and go maneuvers are a no-no on commercial airliners and I tried to find out why this happened. I ran into a brick wall in my attempts to find an explanation. It seemed like the airline felt that it was none of my business.

  51. thomas_callahan says:

    Excellent writing on the part of the Air Force guy, very well explained on all levels.

  52. ninjatoddler says:

    I like how the Gawker Artist ad to the top left fits in with the theme of the post and the picture of the 2 planes. Coincidence?

  53. lrgabriel says:

    Hey!

    Also an Air Force pilot. Just wanted to point out a handful of things.

    Point 1: The term “near miss” is a horrible butchery of the English language-it actually implies you HIT something. “Near midair collision” is a much more accurate way to describe what you’re talking about.

    Point 2: TCAS on modern airliners is designed to give resolution advisories far enough in advance to avoid abrupt maneuvering. In fact…if the pilots up front are paying attention and acting properly, TCAS II (mandated on large U.S. airliners) limits maneuvering to +/- .25 Gs over steady-state…similar to what you’d experience on a normal enroute descent or climb. Any pilot who drastically alters his course due to a TCAS alert is actually endangering everyone in the vicinity-the whole system is built on a standardized and rational reaction.

    Point 3: Far too many accidents are the result of pilots ignoring their TCAS. At this point in aviation technology, the pilot truly is the weakest link…as scary a thought as that is. A single-man cockpit may indeed be safer for everyone. TCAS is an amazing system and it is by no means innovative or new.

    Point 4: Wake turbulence does stick around for a long time, and can be experienced at quite respectable distance from its source. Although uncomfortable and unusual…it is by no means a sure sign of imminent doom. Please don’t be scared the next time your drink sloshes onto your tray table.

    Just some food for thought – again, I’d like to echo the comments about air travel being incredibly safe. I trust my life daily to TCAS.

  54. bairdwallace says:

    What sort of safety record should make a traveller comfortable? We have carried the population of the country, just over 300 million, more than 4 times over since any passenger died on a U.S. airliner. (Comair Lexington August 2006)

    The last U.S. airliner involved in a mid-air collision was 30 years ago. We operate 11 million commercial flight per year.

    You can report non-security related safety incidents to the FAA’s Safety Hotline at 1-866-835-5322.

    [faa.custhelp.com]

  55. Chese says:

    FWIW, part of the next gen ATC system includes a system called ADS-B which is described a bit on wiki [en.wikipedia.org]

  56. drdom says:

    Even with all of it’s faults and failings, air travel is still considerably safer than traveling by car. When you consider the millions of people who travel by air every year, and the relatively few accidents and even fewer fatalities, it’s amazing. Way safer than driving on the highway.

    It is, none the less, very unnerving when you are involved in once of these incidents.

  57. SlyBevel says:

    Wow, who knew? The airport is a series of tubes, too!

  58. ViperBorg says:

    No, no, it’s a near HIT

    If it was a near MISS, they would have HIT each other

    Thank you, George Carlin!

  59. timmus says:

    That [asrs.arc.nasa.gov] link is a good place to look if you are on a flight that has an incident, though it will take months for it to appear there. There’s thousands of reports. Unfortunately when I checked Sunday the database search was down… hopefully it’s back up.

    One night I was bored and I was looking for the most outlandish story I could find on there. Turns out there was a passenger with explosive diarrhea, and the crew was trying to figure out what to do with him. Thankfully they got him set up in a crew area for the rest of the flight where the passengers didn’t have to deal with it. Egads.

  60. ywgflyer says:

    @Bobg:

    Big, big no-no. That sounds less like a touch-and-go, and more like a go-around (rejected landing) AFTER the mains touched the ground. Most airlines (mine included) state in their standard operating procedures that this is a REALLY big issue and should never be done (under reasonable conditions). The only reason I can see for doing that is if another airplane started to enter the active runway after you’d touched down, in which case, sure…get the hell outta there. But otherwise, attempting to go around after you’ve touched the ground (and the spoilers have deployed, as in most large jets – they’re usually set to Auto) is a great way to end up tangled in the antenna array at the end of the runway. This is EXACTLY what brought that TAM A320 down at Congonhas last year – - they attempted to go around (reasons unknown) after touchdown (spoilers deployed, reverse thrust cycling) and by the time they got the aircraft cleaned up, engines spooled up and back to a safe speed to lift off again, they ran out of runway.

  61. Kaisum says:

    No one else finds it hilarious a report for hazardous air activity is called a HATR?
    Brings a whole new meaning to all those rap songs.

  62. Morac says:

    Unfortunately things like this are common because the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system is antiquated. For example, pretty much all communication is done via voice, but a controller can only talk to one plane at a time. For a controller that controls a large number of planes, that isn’t very efficient and if a plane’s mic gets stuck no one can talk.

    At my old job, I was part of a team working on adding CPDLC to the ATC system. CPDLC was supposed to be a part of the FAA’s “Free flight” initiative to modernized the ATC system. We actually had a prototype out at one of the centers when the FAA pulled the plug on the project because after 9/11 none of the airlines had enough money to buy the devices required for their planes and the FAA decided it wasn’t worth continuing. Long story short, most of the people working on the project lost their jobs and a lot of tax payer money ended up being wasted with no results.

    See [www.natca.org]

  63. dlab says:

    @Kaisum: Yep, totally caught that. I would be a total HATR if my flight almost hit another plane.

  64. factotum says:

    You should only shop at Fry’s if you know what you want and have an immediate need. If you’re clueless, do some research first or shop elsewhere. I’ve been shopping at Fry’s since `95 and only within the last two or three years have they installed bar code readers at their registers! I refer to Fry’s as the technologically-challenged electronics retailer.

  65. Nitzer280 says:

    @ophmarketing: Indeed it was wake turbulence.