Heathrow jets within 112ft of collision

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WEDNESDAY JUNE 13 2001 Heathrow jets within 112ft of collision BY BEN WEBSTER, TRANSPORT CORRESPONDENT TWO jets carrying nearly 500 people came within 112ft of colliding after an air traffic controller

supervising a trainee cleared one plane for take-off just as the other was about to land on the same

runway. The pilot of a British Airways Boeing 747 aborted the landing at Heathrow with only seconds to spare

after the controller realised a crash was imminent, according to a report published yesterday by the Air

Accidents Investigation Branch. The two pilots of a Brussels-bound British Midland Airbus A321, waiting

for take-off, saw the 747 pass directly over them.

It was the fifth serious near-miss in seven years at Heathrow. An investigation after the incident in April

last year found serious flaws in the organisation of the training of controllers. The senior male controller,

aged 35, supervising the trainee, a woman aged 28, had been warned about lack of concentration after

another runway near-miss the year before. He was still promoted within a month to training duties. The

report found he had ignored several warning signs that the take-off and landing would conflict. His

behaviour “at best indicates an extreme lack of caution”.

He had taken command of the situation from the trainee after realising that a queue of jets waiting for

take-off might not all have departed by the time the 747, carrying 381 passengers from Japan, arrived.

However, the controller still decided to give the British Midland jet, carrying 89 passengers, clearance

for “immediate take off”. Soon afterwards he was transferred from Heathrow to a “less busy unit” and

relieved of training duties.

Safety inspectors recommended a formal system for selecting and monitoring air traffic control

instructors. All UK-registered aircraft will also be required to use strobe lights, if fitted, when on the

runway. The BA pilots had difficulty seeing the grey British Midland jet on the runway. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-2001195805,00.html

-- Doris (nocents@bellsouth.net), June 13, 2001

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