Minneapolis-St.Paul: near-collision report

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Near-collision of 2 NWA jets over Eagan prompts procedural changes. http://www.startribune.com/viewers/qview/cgi/qview.cgi?story=84277298&template=business_a_cache

(sorry--link is already dead)

Air traffic controllers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are implementing procedural changes recommended by a Federal Aviation Administration panel that reviewed a March 12 near-collision of two Northwest Airlines jetliners over Eagan, the FAA said today.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said no sanctions were issued as a result of the investigation, but one air traffic controller in the Twin Cities was temporarily taken off assignment for retraining.

The panel found that air traffic controllers in the tower at MSP didn't execute a clean hand-off in assigning authority over one of the Northwest planes to a controller in another part of the building.

In the March 12 incident, a departing Northwest plane and a Northwest plane that was circling over Eagan came so close to hitting each other that one of the pilots radioed the control tower to say, "That was too close, sir."

According to the panel's report, an improper handoff in authority from one controller to the next resulted in an 18-second delay of important information for the controller receiving the assignment. Air traffic control assignments shift from controller to controller when a plane moves from one sector of airspace to the next.

"We had some very unfortunate communications," Cory said.

The report said the situation was "exacerbated" by faulty flying instructions the pilots received from on-board crash-avoidance computers. By following those instructions, the airplanes came into closer proximity, the panel's report said.

Northwest was not implicated in the incident, which was described in the panel's report as an air traffic control error.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 01, 2001

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