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Air traffic 'close calls' reviewed in D.C.

Air traffic 'close calls' reviewed in D.C.
Onboard collision warnings in airliners have been triggered more than 45 times this year over Washington due to air traffic control errors, officials say. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Onboard collision warnings in airliners have been triggered more than 45 times this year over Washington due to air traffic control errors, officials say.

A review by the Federal Aviation Administration at the Warrenton, Va., control facility found close calls due to controllers' mistakes exceeded annual error totals for every year since the facility opened in 2003, The Washington Post reported Monday.

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The review was initiated in July after a controller error resulted in a United Airlines flight narrowly missing a collision with a 22-seat Gulfstream business jet, the newspaper said.

One of the United passengers, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., contacted the FAA.

Sensenbrenner's airliner came within 15 seconds of colliding with the smaller jet before onboard warning systems alerted the crew to take evasive action, FAA documents show.

The FAA found "more than 45 such events have been documented this calendar year" in which avoidance alert systems have been triggered in the airspace controlled by the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control.

"Onboard collision avoidance systems give aircraft an extra margin of safety," Sasha J. Johnson, an FAA spokeswoman, said. "However, the alert does not always mean that there was a loss of required separation between aircraft or that an unsafe situation exists."

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"Action has already been taken to improve communication and some operational procedures," at Warrenton, she said.

The FAA review team would return in October to "ensure that progress continues to be made," Johnson said.

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