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NTSB Probes ‘Close’ Call Between Planes at Newark

The pilot of a commuter jet departing Newark Liberty International Airport can be heard telling air traffic controllers that an incoming Boeing 737 passed “real close” to him in an incident now under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

United Airlines Flights Grounded Nationally Due To Computer Glitch
Scott Olson, Getty Images

The close call occurred Thursday at the northeast corner of Newark Liberty International Airport, where two north-south runways intersect with an east-west runway.

In audio archived at , at about 3 p.m. an air traffic controller can be heard telling the pilot of United Flight 1243, carrying six crew and 155 passengers from San Francisco, to “take it normal, or slightly wider” on his approach to runway 29, the east-west runway.

Soon after, he tells the pilot of ExpressJet Flight 4100, flying an Embraer jet carrying three crew and 47 passengers, to taxi and hold before getting onto runway 4R, heading north, for takeoff.

The ExpressJet pilot is given the go-ahead to start his takeoff roll, but quickly the controller tells the United pilot to “go around,” or c limb back up.

“1243 go around, traffic off to your left departing,” the controller says. He then warns the ExpressJet pilot, “traffic off to your right.”

It isn’t clear from the recording whether the United pilot executed the go-around. But within seconds the ExpressJet flight continues its takeoff as the pilot tells the tower, “OK yeah, we’ll put the nose down. Yeah, he’s real close.” After the takeoff, the pilot reiterates, “He was real close, sir.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how close the planes came to each other. An NTSB spokesman said the agency should release a preliminary report on the incident by the end of next week.

An official with knowledge of the incident and the airport’s configuration, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said it appeared the United flight may have been a half-mile away when the ExpressJet cleared the runway intersection — considerably closer than the two-mile separation that is required.

Runway 29, shorter by about one-third than Newark’s two north-south runways, has historically been used to provide additional capacity or offer an alternative if high winds make the other two more treacherous. But it has been used more frequently since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, began a 60-day rehabilitation of one of the two north-south runways this month.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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