Two airliners came within less than a half mile of each other in the stormy skies above Portland International Airport last week, prompting a federal investigation.
The close call came when an Alaska Airlines flight that departed from Southern California tried to land on a runway next to where a SkyWest plane had taken flight on Monday around 4:15 p.m., according to the Oregonian.
The Alaska plane veered away and aborted its landing amid the increasingly urgent directions of an air traffic controller, according to a publicly available recording and visual simulation released by VASAviation.
The aircrafts were about 1,800 feet apart from each horizontally and had 250 feet of space between them vertically, the newspaper estimated.
A near midair collision occurs when planes are less than 500 feet from each other, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which was investigating.
Alaska Airlines flight 1299 then started to veer towards SkyWest Airlines flight 3978 after its pilot appeared to confuse its instruction from the air traffic controller and made a right turn instead of keeping the plane straight.VASAviation / Youtube
Visibility at the time of the incident was less than a mile as the area was reportedly inundated with heavy rain and mist.
Heavy winds had initially prevented Alaska flight 1299 from landing, and the plane dropped to an elevation of 100 feet before ascending for a “go-around,” or another try, according to the outlet.
At the same time, SkyWest Airlines flight 3978 took off on a parallel runway.
A near midair collision occurs when planes are less than 500 feet from each other, according to the FAA.Getty Images
The Alaskan flight was directed by the air traffic controller to maintain the “runway heading” path while the SkyWest plane was told to make a right turn. Instead, the apparently confused pilot of flight 1299 repeated the instructions to the other plane and began heading right, while flight 3978 continued to head straight.
For the next 40 seconds or so, the planes seemed to be headed on a possible collision course and the air traffic controller appeared to grow flustered as he gave increasingly frantic directions, at one point misidentifying the Alaskan flight as “1298.”
The Alaska flight was reportedly rerouted to an airport 150 miles away and wasn’t able to land in Portland until 11:45 p.m.
Both airlines released statements to the paper downplaying the incident.
“The crew of Flight 1299 followed cockpit indications and reacted immediately to increase separation from the other aircraft,” an Alaska spokesperson said. “The aircraft maintained a safe amount of lateral separation throughout the entire event.”
“At no point was the safety of the flight compromised,” SkyWest reportedly said.
It was unclear how many people were aboard the two aircraft.
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