Nightly News   |  June 21, 2013

Close call as planes fly over NYC

On June 13 a Delta flight missed its approach and ended up traveling in the same direction as a Shuttle America plane, coming within 2600 feet horizontally and just 200 feet vertically. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> over the past 24 hours , we have learned a lot more about an incident that took place in the skies over new york city . two aircraft, sizable aircraft, full of passengers, got way too close. one of them was a regional jet , the other a boeing 747 . faa rules called for at least 1,000 feet of separation. these two aircraft were closer than that. our report tonight from nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: it happened in the nation's most congested skies served by three busy airplanes -- laguardia, jfk, and newark. a third of all usair traffic every day flies through, into, or out of new york air space . a week ago today, a very close call . delta flight 172 , a boeing 747 with more than 300 passengers on board, was at the end of a 14-hour flight from tokyo preparing to land at new york's jfk airport . but as he approached runway 4 left in rough winds, the pilot executed a missed approach, telling the tower he was going around. the tower issued instructions to climb and make a gentle turn to the right. meanwhile, at nearby laguardia, a delta regional jet with 70 passengers aboard was taking off, climbing to its left. as the two planes made their wide turns they came within 2,600 feet horizontally and just 1,200 feet vertically. controllers then sounded the alert.

>> are you turning?

>> yes, sir. we're almost at 040 now.

>> delta, traffic 12:00 . 1,400 feet. embraer, 1,600 feet.

>> okay. we've got them on the fish finder here.

>> reporter: the fish finder is an on board collision avoidance radar. retired american airlines captain tom casey .

>> that's very close. that's close for anybody, especially if the embaer looking at a 747 coming at them, that's a large footprint in the air.

>> reporter: earlier this year, the faa 's inspector general reported the number of controller mistakes had jumped 50%. faa insists that's mostly because controllers are now encouraged to self-report errors without fear of penalty to identify safety concerns.

>> controllers have to be on their game, making sure that traffic is separated and it takes a lot of coordination between controllers in each of the facilities as well as t.e

>> reporter: the faa will be dissecting this close call to figure out what went wrong and then to learn from it. brian?

>> elsewhere in the aviation business news today on our devices and when we may be able to use them in flight, that we can't right now.

>> reporter: yeah. an faa advisory panel has been looking at whether ipods, iphones, ereaders, laptops, cell phones , whether they interfere with the plane's electronics and avionics during takeoff and landing. they're expected to report back in september that these devices are mostly safe until the faa says it may then loosen up the rules, allow some giedevices, not all to be used during takeoff and landing but cell phones would probably still not be allowed.