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A Close Call Over Burbank

January 05, 1986|JERRY HULSE

How does an airline passenger respond to a near-rendezvous with death in the sky?

For those of us aboard a DC-9 over San Fernando Valley one bright Sunday there was only an incredible calm.

Strange, because death was so near.

Shortly after takeoff from Burbank, the pilot on PSA flight 273 banked sharply to avoid an unidentified Cherokee single-engine airplane, which was converging with the DC-9 at an altitude of 8,000 feet.

Although the jet and the private plane came within seconds of disaster, no one panicked.

Earlier, there had been an announcement that flight 273 was being delayed due to "Sunday flyers" practicing "touch-and-go" landings at Burbank Airport.

Whenever the weather is clear--particularly on weekends--the skies over San Fernando Valley are frequently crowded with private aircraft. It was one of those planes that nearly collided with the jet carrying 76 passengers and a crew of five.

Due to the near-perfect weather, though--this and the fact that the Cherokee was outside the terminal control area--the private aircraft wasn't being guided by air traffic controllers.

Had the planes collided, death would have been a probability for all aboard both aircraft.

Still, only moments later in-flight attendants were serving cocktails and soft drinks to their passengers.

For those of us who were aware of the near miss, it was a toast to the PSA pilot who had cheated death.

The incident was reported by the airline to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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