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Examining Close Calls At Philly Airport

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(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We first told you about a close call with Phillies team plane Monday. Now Eyewitness News has learned nearly two dozen times this year, aircraft have been in a potential path of danger at Philadelphia International Airport.

Just how safe are the skies above Philadelphia? An exclusive CBS 3 I-Team investigation has uncovered FAA reports never before made public that provide some answers. Twenty one times this year, planes in flight and on the runway at Philadelphia International Airport have come too close, prompting FAA investigations.

April 24, 2010: A controller sends a military C-5 from 7000 feet to 10,000 feet. The C-5 ends up in the path of a commuter jet. Cockpit alarms go off. Both planes abruptly change course, but the C-5 is heading to 11,000 feet, into the path of another plane that had to take evasive action.

Aviation expert and attorney Arthur Wolk said, “So you had the potential for a three-plane mid-air for a brief moment here, and that’s really scary.”

Wolk says while alarms in the planes helped prevent a crash, he’s concerned what might have happened.

“That was a bad day that could have been a really bad day, a disastrous day,” said Wolk. “But fortunately, the safeguards that were built into the systems worked.”

Don Chapman, president of the air traffic controllers union in Philadelphia, said, “The controller was given additional training to resolve the issues that might have led to that.”

Meanwhile on a runway June 8, FAA reports show a construction vehicle mistakenly pulled onto an active runway as a plane was taking off. That plane rose above the vehicle, while a second plane inbound on the same runway had to be diverted. The driver was suspended and fined.

Monday, we told you about the latest incident, when a Phillies charter plane had to abort its landing last Friday when another plane moved onto its runway. In all the incidents uncovered by Eyewitness News, pilots, controllers and technology responded quickly preventing crashes.

As to just how safe the skies are? Over the seven months these 21 incidents occurred, more than 200,000 flights safely made their way in and out of Philadelphia International Airport. By everyone’s estimate, that’s an excellent safety record.

Reported by: Walt Hunter, CBS 3 I-Team


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