Home > Uncategorized > What is a Near Miss in Commercial Aviation?

What is a Near Miss in Commercial Aviation?

Boening 777A recent “near miss” that occurred in San Francisco, California this past weekend – March 26, 2010 – illustrates the seriousness of these kinds of incidents. The potential for catastrophe is devastating. The “near miss” involved a Boeing 777 that was carrying 261 passengers and a small Cessna four-seat, single-engine, light airplane. This is important reading for every flight training student and pilot.

San Francisco – Federal investigators are looking into the near collision of a commercial jet and small airplane near San Francisco International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration will take “strong measures to make sure something similar does not occur in the future” following Saturday’s near-miss between United Airlines Flight 889 to Beijing, China, and a light-wing airplane, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The closest the planes came to each other was 300 feet vertically and 1,500 feet horizontally, Ian Gregor said. The United flight continued to Beijing with no further incident.

According to Gregor, air traffic controllers cleared the United flight, a Boeing 777 carrying 251 passengers, for takeoff at 11:15 a.m. and quickly spotted the Cessna 182 flying south.

The controller radioed both planes’ pilots and the jet’s automatic traffic collision avoidance system alerted its pilots of the small aircraft approaching, causing them to level the jet’s climb.

The Cessna pilot reported that he had the 777 in sight, and adjusted his path to maneuver above and behind the 777.
Ian Gregor said the controller should have noticed the Cessna earlier, but noted that the pilots were quickly contacted once the situation was recognized.

What is a “Near Miss?”

A “near miss” is a narrowly avoided collision involving two or more aircraft usually in the air or approaching an airport. A near miss at an airport is often called a “runway incursion.”

The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) has been collecting voluntary reports of close calls from pilots, flight attendants, air traffic controllers since 1976. The system was established after TWA Flight 514 crashed on approach to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., killing all 85 passengers and seven crew in 1974. The investigation that followed found that the pilot misunderstood an ambiguous response from the Dulles air traffic controllers, and that earlier another airline had told its pilots, but not other airlines, about a similar near miss.

The ASRS identifies deficiencies and provides data for planning improvements to stakeholders without regulatory action. Some familiar safety rules, such as turning off electronic devices that can interfere with navigation equipment, are a result of this program. Due to near miss observations and other technological improvements, the rate of fatal accidents has dropped about 65 percent, to one fatal accident in about 4.5 million departures, from one in nearly 2 million in 1997.

In the United Kingdom, a “near miss” is called an “airprox” by the Civil Aviation Authority. Since reporting them began in England, aircraft near misses have continued to decline.

Even though “near misses” are not as common as they used to be, every flight training student should be aware and prepared in case they ever happen to them.

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