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Controller blamed for close calls at L.A. airport; FAA reports 2 more near O’Hare this week

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Posted: December 29, 2007 3:25 p.m.
Updated: January 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    LOS ANGELES — Two airliners came within 8,000 feet of each other on a Los Angeles International Airport runway after an air traffic controller miscommunicated with the pilots, authorities said.
    The runway incursion Wednesday night involved an American Airlines plane arriving from Mexico and a Mexicana Airlines plane preparing for takeoff. The arriving plane, an MD-80 from San Jose del Cabo, had just landed on the outer runway and was about to cross the inner runway, where an Airbus A319 was about to take off for Morelia, Mexico, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.
    The traffic controller told the American Airlines pilot to stop before crossing the inner runway, Gregor said. The pilot apparently misheard the direction and read back that he would go ahead and cross the runway. The controller did not catch the pilot’s statement and cleared the Mexicana flight for takeoff before realizing that the American Airlines jetliner was about to roll onto the runway, the FAA said.
    The controller immediately told both pilots to stop. No injuries were reported.
    ‘‘We’re logging this as a controller error and not a pilot error because the burden is on the controller to ensure that the pilot’s read-back is correct,’’ Gregor said.
    The controller will undergo more training, authorities said.
    Meanwhile, aviation officials in Illinois reported two errors in which airplanes flew too close to each other Thursday. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said the planes were not in danger of colliding in either case.
    In one error at the FAA’s Chicago Center radar facility in Aurora, traffic controllers gave clearance to an American Airlines plane coming from O’Hare International Airport and another plane heading to Milwaukee, but one of the pilots did not follow instructions, Molinaro said. The planes passed 4.17 miles away from each other near Goshen, Ind.; the recommended distance is five miles.
    The same day, controllers improperly directed a Boeing 757 flown by United Airlines and another flown by American to fly 2.8 miles apart as they prepared to land one after the other at O’Hare, Molinaro said. The standard distance in that situation is four miles.

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