updated 2/22/2006 8:24:49 AM ET 2006-02-22T13:24:49

Two planes came within a few hundred feet of each other last week when a controller at Los Angeles International Airport mistakenly cleared three planes for the same runway, officials said.

“It was pretty close,” said Les Dorr, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, said. “We’ll be looking to find out what all happened, and how we can prevent it in the future.”

Friday’s episode began when the controller directed a departing Skywest turboprop to taxi onto the same runway on which he had cleared a Southwest Airlines jet to land. He also told an Air Canada jet that it could cross the same runway on its way to the terminals.

The Skywest pilot saw the incoming Southwest jet and stopped short of the runway. The jet roared past about 275 feet away and 50 feet above the smaller plane. It landed without incident and never got closer than about 5,600 feet to the Air Canada jet, Dorr said.

The FAA has not determined why the controller put the planes so close together or switched the Southwest jet to a different runway as it came in to land.

The airport has had one of the worst runway safety violation records in the nation in recent years. The city’s airport agency is spending $328 million to give planes on the ground more room to maneuver.

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