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.