By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A federal report takes a look at what happened last month in the moments before two planes — including one that had just taken off for Philadelphia — nearly collided in the skies above Minneapolis.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report blames an air traffic control error for the September 16th near miss, just after both flights departed from the Twin Cities’ airport. 

(US Airways pilot:) “What’s this guy doing off the left side?”

(US Airways pilot:) “OK.  We just had us — we heard the guy go by.”

It was so close — as little as 50 feet separated the jets — that the pilot of US Airways flight 1848 to PHL with 95 people on board said he could hear the Bemidji cargo plane hurdle past them.

The tower controller had told both planes to turn but the cargo flight’s pilot — the only one on board — did not do so:

(Air traffic controller:) “Bemidji 46, turn left heading 1-8-0, runway 3-0 left, cleared for takeoff.”

(Air traffic controller:) “Bemidji 46, are you in the turn?”

Instead, the NTSB says he was on a collision course with the passenger jet. 

(Air traffic controller:) “Um, why didn’t you start the turn once you were airborne?”

The cargo plane’s pilots radio responses were distorted and are largely unintelligible.

The US Airways pilot averted disaster by a hair, thanks to crash-avoidance technology.

The NTSB does not say whether the controller’s order to that plane was a mistake.  A final report is expected in a couple of months.

Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio


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