PALMDALE — A Los Angeles-area air traffic controller averted what could have been a major air disaster by advising a jetliner pilot he was on a collision course with a small aircraft, the government said today.
The Pacific Southwest Airlines pilot was able to stop his descent and safely pass over the smaller plane in the incident Tuesday afternoon, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elle Brekke said.
When the danger had passed, the pilot radioed the controller: "You just saved our lives and everybody else. Thank you very much. Good day."
The FAA controller at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center here spotted the planes flying at cross-courses, Brekke said.
"PSA Flight 1781 was en route from Las Vegas descending to land at Los Angeles International Airport. The aircraft was 34 miles north-northeast of Los Angeles airport at 12,000 feet when the alert controller observed another aircraft flying under visual flight rules at 11,500 feet on cross-courses," she said.
"The controller issued a traffic alert advising the PSA aircraft to stop its descent. The PSA pilot took immediate action by climbing back to 12,000 feet," she said.
"The PSA pilot never saw the other aircraft since he was flying in instrument flight conditions with poor visibility due to weather conditions," Brekke added.
The controller, who was not identified by the FAA, said later: "That's my job. That's just what we're here for."