5 Near Collisions Over New York Airports Last Month

We’ve been hearing a lot about how the FAA is stressed and there aren’t enough air traffic controllers, but this is nuts: According to the NYPost, there were 5 near collisions over New York airports in the last month. There were 5 for all of 2006. What the heck?

“Air travelers should be seriously concerned about their safety,” said Phil Barbarello of the air-traffic controllers union, who wants more controllers hired. “The margin of safety is as low as I have ever seen, and I’ve been with the agency [FAA] for 23 years.” Hey, that’s comforting. The FAA denies there is a staffing problem.

Among the near collisions were a Chicago-bound American Eagle flight came within 200 feet of a helicopter at Kennedy airport, and on May 21st, the following weird encounter…. From the NYPost:

Continental Airlines Flight 466, a Boeing 757, was at 6,000 feet heading into Newark Airport when it had a close encounter with an unidentified aircraft.

The jet’s Terminal Collision Avoidance System sounded the alarm, and the pilots “took evasive action and descended,” according to an airport source.

“Our pilots receive extensive training to immediately respond to this type of event. The TCAS system did exactly what is was designed to do,” said Continental spokeswoman Julie King, who confirmed the near-miss.

What? Unidentified? Now there are aliens to worry about too? Where do we keep the tinfoil? —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: stephenhanafin)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Trai_Dep says:

    On the bright side, if you encounter flaming, apocalyptic death while attempting to fly to Cabo, at least you won’t be stuck on the tarmac for four hours.

  2. Hawkins says:

    The legal definition of a near-collision, according to the Post, is when two planes are flying less than 500 feet apart.

    That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that if each is moving at normal cruise speed, they could be approaching one another at something like 1,100 mph, which is nearly a third of a mile every second.

    Put that in your TCAS and smoke it.

  3. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    The government would deny it. They deny everything and don’t take responsibility for anything. They do need more ATC’s and fast.

  4. royal72 says:

    who cares about near collisions and the whining faa. we need more tsa and cavity searches, definitely cavity searches… “pardon me ma’am, did anyone ask you to smuggle something in your ass today?… was it ticking ma’am?!”

  5. myrall says:

    The LA Times has a more indepth article about how it’s not the ATC’s fault – the problem with near misses stems from the antiquated (i.e. 1950’s era) radar and beaconing system. UPS has been experimenting with GPS-based flight positioning systems with great results. Let’s lay off the air traffic controllers and lay blame where it really needs to go – congress needs to help out the FAA in implementing a multi-billion dollar flight system that will be able to handle the predicted capacity coming in the next few years.


  6. banned says:

    Airlines or government don’t care about this stuff until people actually die, that is, until the bad press from somebody dying comes along. Lets all pray Mr. Bush leaves this issue for others to solve, or we’ll end up with 5 collisions/day.

  7. ganzhimself says:

    Hmm… They need ATCs? What does a job like that pay?

  8. myrall says:

    @ganzhimself: I have a buddy that’s an ATC for a major metropolitan area and his salary is in the six-figures. He actually recommended the movie “Pushing Tin” for anyone even thinking about becoming an ATC.

  9. moosetoga says:

    Why oh why did I have to read this three weeks before my trip to Florida?…

    (And why, exactly, am I taking a trip to Florida in July?)

  10. lemur says:

    Facing a barrage of criticism due to the 5 near-misses over NY airports last month, the FAA pointed out that it followed normal procedures in such cases. Transcripts show that the FAA, as required by their own procedures, took evasive action and engaged their avoidance system, issuing the statement: “there is no problem; everything is fine.”

  11. shad0ws says:

    hmmmm, i wonder what kind of training/education Air Traffic Controllers need…. looks like i’ve got a new career path to research! ;)

  12. wobudong says:

    I flew into Newark from Minneapolis Sunday on Continental. I have been flying for at least 40 years. This was the first time I saw 3 aircraft during a flight. 99.9 times out of 100 I never see any other aircraft. But 3 during a 2.5-hour flight?
    Makes you wonder.

  13. bnet41 says:

    You know, I don’t think I could take the stress of being a ATC. It’s always near the top of those most stressful jobs lists.

    I’ve said this before on here, but something needs to be done about air traffic in the NYC area. It’s just getting way too crowded.

  14. mroach says:

    @myrall: Haha, probably because that’s the only movie that remotely has anything to do with ATC. IIRC, most of the movie has little to nothing to do with ATC.

    I’m glad pilots are obeying TCAS. If you can find it, check out the Air Crash Investigation season 2 episode 4 which is about the 2002 mid-air collision over Germany between a DHL 757 and a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev.


  15. bnet41 says:

    @wobudong: Yea, I just wanted to add I’ve noticed that as well. It’s getting crowded in the sky’s. I think the FAA’s needs to focus more on the regional airports to help release pressure at the top 30.

  16. pestie says:

    Am I the only one who’s not even a little surprised that an air traffic controllers’ union representative is saying scary things to help put public pressure on the FAA to get what they want? You might want to take these warnings with a grain or two of salt. I don’t trust the government any more than the rest of you, but a union rep is hardly an unbiased source.

  17. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    A relative of mine was an ATC at LAX for years. He made bank and got to retire at 50 with full government pension! But if you think about it, how much stress in a job do you need to have for the government to let you retire 15 yrs ahead of the normal retirement age, pay you a ton of money to do it, and let you live high on the hog for the rest of your life?

    My relative had extensive engineering training and was in the air force for years before his ATC job, for those wanting to make the leap over to that career. ;)

  18. Don Roberto says:

    On a three hour flight from Houston to Laguardia, I also saw at least three planes. One of which passed right over us, very close.

  19. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    So wouldn’t a potential collision between aircraft be called a near hit?

    Any way you slice it, this is definitely not a comforting trend.

  20. minneapolisite says:

    @ganzhimself: It is one of the highest paying jobs in the country, and supposedly the most stressful. Apparently, ATC school is also very difficult. I sort of find this hard to believe, but I went to UND (a major aviation college) and many of my friends started out in ATC and then moved on to something easier…like commercial aviation. Here is a sample course plan for someone working on an ATC…