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Controllers Get Credit in Averting 2 Air Collisions

December 22, 1987|JIM CARLTON | Times Staff Writer

Timely warnings by air traffic controllers averted two potential collisions between jet airliners and small aircraft this weekend over the Southland, federal officials said Monday.

Both incidents involved jetliners on final approach to Orange County's John Wayne Airport. In one incident, an American Airlines jet with 44 passengers aboard descended quickly to avoid a small plane over Santa Ana. Air traffic controllers estimated the two aircraft missed one another by 200 feet.

In the other incident, an America West jet with 94 passengers aboard swerved to avoid a private plane over Pomona. The pilot estimated the planes passed within 1,000 feet.

Reported to FAA

Pilots of both jetliners filed near-collision reports with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating.

The private pilot in the incident involving the American jet has been found and questioned by the FAA, which declined to release his name. The private pilot in the America West incident was still unidentified Monday, the FAA said.

The incident involving the American Airlines plane, a British-built BAe-146, occurred at 1:42 p.m. Sunday after Flight 2036, completing a non-stop flight from Sacramento, was cleared for visual approach into John Wayne Airport, John Raymond, spokesman for the airline, said.

As the jet's pilot was at an altitude of 2,600 feet about three miles northwest of the airport, an unidentified controller at Coast Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in El Toro warned that he was within 1,200 feet of a single-engine Cherokee Piper that had just left the same airport, Raymond said.

The American pilot told airline officials that he did not see the Cherokee, Raymond said. The Cherokee pilot estimated the closest distance between the two planes at a quarter-mile and told federal officials he had the jetliner in sight at all times.

The Cherokee pilot was flying under visual flight rules at the time, said FAA spokeswoman Elly Brekke in Los Angeles.

The America West incident occurred at 10:35 p.m. Saturday as Flight 652 from Phoenix was over the Pomona area, Brekke said. As the Boeing 737-300 descended to 5,000 feet, a TRACON controller warned the crew that a single-engine Cessna 172 was straight ahead about two miles away and climbing from 4,500 feet, Brekke said.

The America West pilot executed a 15-degree right turn and climbed 200 feet in an evasive maneuver, Brekke said. Closest proximity between the two was 1,000 feet horizontally and 200 vertically, Brekke said.

The FAA defines a near collision as an incident in which two aircraft come within 500 feet of each other (when below 29,000 feet), or in which a pilot must take evasive action.

Daphne Dicino, spokeswoman for America West, said the pilot filed the report only because he believed the Cessna should not have been in his airspace. Dicino said the pilot has emphasized that his jet was not in any danger of collision.

Meanwhile, two propeller planes collided on a taxiway at Los Angeles International Airport Monday evening, but there were no injuries, Los Angeles City Fire Department spokesman Jim Wells said. The wing-tip of a twin-engine Beechcraft hit the tail of a single-engine Piper Cherokee, Wells said. Neither was carrying passengers.

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