Near Miss on Runway at LAX as Planes Come Within 200 Feet
L.A. INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Aug. 17, 2007 (KABC-TV) (KABC) -- A landing jet narrowly missed another jet that was taking off. It's the seventh such incident at LAX just this year alone. What's being done to prevent a potential catastrophe in the future?
It happened on the north runway at the airport. One plane was coming in, another was taking off, and this was a mistake that almost became a disaster.
The incident happened around 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Officials say a WestJet Boeing 737 coming in from Calgary, Canada was landing on the north runway at LAX. On the ground, a Northwest Airbus A320 was in the path and about to take off.
The WestJet plane landed and managed to stop a few feet away. Officials say they came very close -- 200 feet, and perhaps as close as 50 feet away.
"I fly all the time," said passenger Sarah Smeltzer. "I've never -- I mean, they say it's safer to fly than it is to drive on the roads. But that's scary, I didn't hear anything about that."
The FAA says that this was a double mistake. Normally, a pilot gets directions from Air Traffic Control until the moment he lands. Then the pilot switches over to Ground Control for instructions to get to the gate.
In this case, the pilot on the arriving WestJet plane apparently switched to ground traffic control too early, and didn't get final instructions. As he crossed over from one runway to the gate, he nearly hit the other plane.
"They should probably monitor that a little bit more and make people feel better," said passenger Greg Hall. "I'm sure there's a lot of people that if they hear that type of story, they're going to worry about flying."
This is the seventh close call at LAX this year. There was eight all of 2006. Over the last decade, this airport has had a number of incursions. This is one reason behind a massive construction project at the south airfield. A runway is now being moved 55 feet south, and a new taxiway is being added to keep planes further away from each other.
Airport officials want to reconfigure the north runway as well. They say the north runways were built for smaller, slower planes and not the ones being used now. But they say that certainly isn't going to be easy because already some residents that live near the airport are complaining that all the noise and all the traffic is causing problems for their quality of life. Airport officials say any changes at LAX will take a longer time here.
The FAA is investigating this latest incident.
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