Number of airline near-misses on the rise - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Number of airline near-misses on the rise

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Airlines respond to newly released data on an increase in near aircraft misses. (Source: CNN) Airlines respond to newly released data on an increase in near aircraft misses. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) – A near mid-air collision in April over Newark, NJ, a United Airlines 737 landing with 160 passengers come within 150 yards of a United Express Regional jet preparing to take off.

It's the fourth time this year a near collision has made headlines. CNN has learned the number of close calls nearly doubled in 2013 over the previous year.

A closer look at the FAA's newly released statistics shows 38 were considered “high risk” – that's actually three fewer than the previous year.

But the number of medium and low risk incidents soared, and in 2014, there have been other close calls:

  • On April 25, a United Flight cruising at 33,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean gets too close to a U.S. Airways plane. Passengers say the aircraft plunged to avoid disaster.
  • On May 9 in Houston, two United Airlines flights come less than a mile of each other when a controller gives one pilot the wrong instructions. The mistake was quickly corrects.
  • On May 10 in New York, two JetBlue planes come within a mile of each other as one takes off and the other prepares to land.

All of these close calls are what the FAA calls “loss of separation,” and usually comes down to pilot or controller error.

“Anytime there is a loss of separation, we are concerned about it because it is not supposed to occur,” Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The FAA attributes the spite to its voluntary safety reporting system which allows employees to submit safety incidents confidentially.

The FAA says that led to increased reporting, so it's not known if the actual number of incidents have gone up.

The agency says that “more than 99.99 percent of all air traffic operations occur with no loss of separation, which helps make the U.S. airspace the safest in the world.”

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