NTSB Investigating Near Collision Of A Boeing 737 And A Cessna 172 <


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NTSB Investigating Near Collision Of A Boeing 737 And A Cessna 172

By Steve Hall

April 24, 2010 - The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the near collision of a commercial jetliner and a small private plane at the intersection of two active runways at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport in Southern California. 

At about 10:58 a.m. PDT on April 19, Southwest Airlines flight 649, a Boeing 737-700 (N473WN) inbound from Oakland, carrying 119 passengers and a crew of five was landing on runway 8 while a Cessna 172, in the departure phase of a “touch and go” on runway 15, passed over the 737.  A “touch and go” is a practice maneuver in which an aircraft briefly lands on the runway before accelerating and becoming airborne again. 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplanes came within 200 feet vertically and 10 feet laterally of each other at the runway intersection. No one was injured in the incident, which occurred under a clear sky with visibility of 10 miles.

In March 1977, in what remains the world’s deadliest aviation accident, two passenger jumbo jets collided on a runway at Tenerife, Canary Islands, causing the deaths of 583 passengers and crew. 

In the United States, the deadliest U.S. runway incursion accident occurred in August 2006 when Comair flight 5191, a regional jet, crashed after taking off from the wrong runway, killing 49 of the 50 people on board. 

The worst U.S. runway incursion accident involving two aircraft was a collision between a USAir 737 and a Skywest Metroliner commuter airplane at Los Angeles International Airport in February 1991, which killed 34 people. 

On May 29, 2009, a runway incursion involving a PSA Airlines Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ)-200, and a Pilatus PC-12 occurred at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT), Charlotte, North Carolina.  There were 3 crewmembers and 43 passengers aboard the PSA CRJ-200 and two crewmembers and one passenger aboard the Pilatus.  The local controller cleared the CRJ-200 aircraft for takeoff and, three seconds later, directed the Pilatus to taxi into position and hold on the active runway. 


The CRJ-200 aircraft was on takeoff roll when the pilots noticed the Pilatus approaching the left side of the runway.  As the CRJ-200 continued to accelerate to approximately 85 knots, the Pilatus did not appear to be slowing down to hold short of the active runway. 

When it became apparent that the Pilatus was not going to hold short of the active runway, the CRJ-200 pilot initiated a rejected takeoff.  Although the Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X) system alerted the local controller of the conflict, the CRJ-200 crew initiated the rejected takeoff before the local controller cancelled the takeoff clearance.  The CRJ-200 aircraft came to a complete stop on the runway centerline.  The crew estimated they missed colliding with the Pilatus by approximately 2-3 feet. 

The runway incursion issue has been on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List since its inception in 1990. In the late 1980s, an inordinate number of runway incursions ground collision accidents resulted in substantial loss of life, and the NTSB issued numerous safety recommendations addressing the issue.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has since taken action to inform controllers of potential runway incursions, improve airport markings, and install the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) and ASDE-X.  These systems are an improvement but are not sufficient as designed to prevent all runway incursions.
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