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Controllers Blamed in DC-10s' Near Miss

April 18, 1985|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Conflicting instructions from air traffic controllers seated side by side nearly caused two jumbo jets to collide on a Minneapolis airport runway on March 31, the investigation into the incident indicated Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a transcript of tower radio communications showing that one controller gave a Northwest Airlines DC-10 clearance for takeoff, while the other controller at the same time told another Northwest DC-10 to proceed across the same runway.

The two transmissions were made only one second apart, although on different radio frequencies, according to the documents. The two controllers, one a 24-year veteran and the other who just recently became fully qualified, were temporarily relieved of traffic duties.

Reassigned for Training

The recently qualified controller, who directed the plane to cross the runway, has been reassigned for further training, and the veteran controller, who gave the takeoff clearance, has been returned to normal duty, FAA spokesman Mort Edlestein said Wednesday.

Neither of the controllers was identified.

Safety board spokesman Ira Furman said that investigators are focusing on the aircraft volume and traffic flow at the time of the incident, which occurred shortly after 9 p.m. after a snowstorm had backed up traffic.

The transcript indicates heavy traffic at the airport, with planes backed up for takeoff and some taxiways clogged.

Safety board investigators have been told by some crew members of the two jumbo jets that the jetliner taking off may have cleared the other plane by as little as 50 feet. Other accounts have given the clearance as about 200 feet.

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