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Aircraft near misses more than double in US skies

September 17, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that “near misses” in the skies, involving aircraft coming too close to each other, doubled last year.

That may be less disturbing than it sounds, as it seems that better monitoring of the skies and reporting of incidents is behind much of the apparent increase.250x250

The report found 4394 instances of planes flying too close to one another in the year ending 1 September 2012 – a massive jump over the 1895 reported the year before.

Forty-one of these incidents are considered by the FAA to have been “high-risk events”. While none resulted in accidents, any accident involving two airborne planes colliding is potentially catastrophic.

The FAA had forecast an increase in reported incidents as it phased in a program to monitor radar and automatically report problems, CNN reported in the US.

US skies are safer than they have ever been and accidents involving commercial aircraft are very rare, so the FAA is concentrating on looking at “precursors” to accidents. Aircraft coming too close, known technically such as “loss of separation” events, are precursors because any collision must by definition be preceded by aircraft coming too close.

To put it in perspective, the 4394 loss of separation event in US skies in 2012 occurred during 132 million take-offs and landings. That equates to just 3.3 incidents per 100,000 operations.

At high altitudes, planes should be separated by at least five miles horizontally or 1000 feet vertically. Obviously, planes come closer at airports. Aviation still works in feet and miles, just as seat pitch aboard aircraft is generally expressed in inches.

Written by : Peter Needham

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