Near-Collision Reports Tied to Airlines Up 50%

October 22, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The number of near-collision reports involving commercial aircraft jumped nearly 50% during the first nine months of this year, according to Federal Aviation Administration figures.

However, there was disagreement Wednesday among aviation safety experts on the significance of the increase.

The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said that the sharp rise in near collisions shows that travelers were exposed to an "increased risk" of an aerial collision during the last summer, but the head of the FAA called the statistical jump "not in itself very meaningful."

According to the FAA, the agency received 857 near-collision reports from pilots during the first nine months of the year, a 37% increase over last year. The number of such reports involving planes carrying revenue-paying passengers increased even more sharply, from 258 last year to 383 this year, up 48%.

Sharp Increase in August

During the busy summer months--June through August--there were 159 near-collision reports involving at least one commercial plane, an increase of 50% over the summer of 1986. The sharpest increase--69%--occurred in August, when nearly two such incidents a day were being reported, according to the FAA figures.

"If you look at near midair collisions, they continued throughout the summer at very high levels," said Jim Burnett, chairman of the safety board. "Somehow we're going to have to get a handle on that."

But FAA Administrator T. Allan McArtor said that, although the increase during the nine-month period, compared to the same months in 1986, is a matter of concern to his agency, he does not consider the figures in themselves "very meaningful" because actual collisions are extremely rare.

"The statistics of near midair collisions taken by themselves are not good indicators of exposure to risk in the national air system," McArtor said.

At the same time, he acknowledged: "We have a very busy air system . . . We're taking very aggressive action to minimize the exposure to risk."

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