May 19, 2011 -- A supervisor in the air traffic control tower at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago likely prevented a low-altitude midair collision this past Monday morning when said individual ordered a SkyWest plane to abort its landing and execute a “go around.”
Even so, preliminary radar data indicates that the SkyWest aircraft (flight 6958, a Canadair CRJ-200 arriving from Muskegon, Michigan) passed just 225 feet above (and less than 480 feet apart laterally ) an ExpressJet Airlines plane—an Embraer ERJ-145 that was taking off en route to Buffalo, New York.
“Because of the timing of the two operations, the SkyWest flight nearly overflew the departing ExpressJet flight,” said a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) advisory issued earlier this evening.
It’s the latest in a string of near midair collisions over U.S. airports, including at least four serious incidents in 2010. On September 10, 2010, a US Airways jet nearly collided with a cargo jet as both aircraft were taking off from Minneapolis-St. Paul. And on May 21, 2010, a US Airways jet nearly collided with a 747 cargo plane over Anchorage.
On April 28, 2010, a Southwest jet came kissing close to colliding with a news gathering helicopter over Houston’s Hobby Airport. And on April 19, 2010, a Southwest 737 and a private plane came within 200 feet of colliding over Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California.
Improving runway safety has been a priority for the NTSB since 1990.
The world’s deadliest aviation accident occurred on March 27, 1977, when two 747’s heading in opposite directions collided on a runway at Tenerife, Canary Islands, killing 583 passengers and crew.