Video: More airline mishaps under FAA scrutiny

  1. Transcript of: More airline mishaps under FAA scrutiny

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Bagram Air Force Base): We have more tonight on the high-interest story we've been following. More fallout from that Northwest Airlines jet that flew past the airport a week ago. The FAA is now looking at some other close calls with new scrutiny on what could be distracted pilots in the cockpit. NBC 's Tom Costello covers aviation for us and has the latest.

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: In the case of Northwest Flight 188, investigators say flight crew concentration is a prime focus, as it is in two other recent cases that drive home the concern. October 19th in Atlanta , a Delta 767 landed on a taxiway instead of the runway. Fortunately, at 6 AM , there were no planes using the taxiway. And Sunday in Los Angeles , a Midwest Express regional jet came within just a few feet of a Northwest 757 preparing to take off, barely avoiding a collision. Inattentive pilots have been a concern for years, blamed on the fatal Colgan Air crash in Buffalo last February, the Comair crash in Lexington , Kentucky , in 2006 , and the Northwest crash in Detroit in 1987 , among many others. In today's fully automated cockpits, pilots can easily get bored and lose their focus.

    Mr. RON NIELSEN: It can get pretty boring up there.

    COSTELLO: Ron Nielsen flew 737s for 30 years.

    Mr. NIELSEN: In flying, one of the paradoxes of a pilot is to stay interested in a job that's no -- become, you know, no longer become interesting.

    COSTELLO: So to pass the time some pilots claim that they often turn to books, iPods, BlackBerrys or laptops, as the Northwest pilots claim. Now the government says it will add distracted piloting to its distracted driving initiative.

    Mr. MICHAEL GOLDFARB (Former FAA Chief of Staff): And what we've learned is that when you're not actively engaged in any profession, whether it be flying a plane or driving a car or running a train, you're prone to make those errors and have -- and gravitate towards something to take your mind off things.

    COSTELLO: Ironically, the modern reinforced cockpit door may contribute to the problem, isolating pilots for long stretches at a time in dark cocoons with little human interaction. Tom Costello , NBC News , Washington .

updated 10/29/2009 10:06:01 AM ET 2009-10-29T14:06:01

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday a runway incursion put a taxiing jet about 82 feet from a departing airliner — less than half the separation required by aviation rules.

The incident Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport involved a Midwest Airlines Embraer 190 that landed and taxied toward a runway on which a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757 was taking off for Honolulu.

The Midwest Airlines jet, arriving from Milwaukee, landed on the airport's southernmost runway and was told to turn onto a taxiway and hold there.

FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said the jet was supposed to stop 200 feet from the edge of a parallel runway but continued on. An alarm was triggered when the jet crossed the hold line marked by a bright yellow bar.

A controller saw what was happening and ordered the Midwest aircraft to stop, Fergus said. It halted about 70 feet from the edge of the runway.

Assuming the Northwest plane was in the center of the runway, the total distance between the Midwest jet's nose and the Northwest Airline's wingtip was about 82 feet.

Fergus said the incident was considered a runway incursion because the Midwest pilot crossed the hold line.

The airport has four parallel runways. Planes landing on the outer runways have to cross inner runways to reach the terminals.

Last fiscal year, eight runway incursions occurred at the airport, the FAA said.

In the spring, a warning system designed to prevent near accidents and other runway violations was installed at one runway and eight associated taxiways.

Sunday's incursion occurred at a taxiway and runway that did not have the system, called runway status warning lights, the agency said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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