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Near-Collision at Airport Draws Inquiry From NTSB

January 22, 1992|JEFFREY A. PERLMAN | TIMES URBAN AFFAIRS WRITER

COSTA MESA — The National Transportation Safety Board is making an inquiry into the Jan. 9 near midair collision between an Alaska Airlines jetliner and a small plane near John Wayne Airport, officials said Tuesday.

NTSB spokesman Brent Bahler said the agency has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for information.

Last week the FAA said its preliminary investigation found that an air traffic controller in the John Wayne Airport tower mixed up the identities of the two aircraft and lost sight of one of them. The controller was removed from his post, the FAA said. But the control tower staff and management have about a month to complete their own findings.

The pilot of the Alaska Airlines MD-80, carrying 49 people, swerved to avoid a twin-engine Piper Navajo as both planes headed for the same runway.

The Navajo made an unexpectedly wide turn to land and was 1.2 miles off course during its final approach, according to the FAA. The air traffic controller lost track of the Navajo, then mistook the Alaska jet for the Navajo. Fearing that the Alaska jet was missing, he directed the Navajo to abort and make a right turn, placing it directly in the path of the descending jetliner, according to the FAA.

"This is a routine inquiry on our part," said the NTSB's Bahler. "Once we get the information, we will decide what, if any, course of action to pursue."

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