NTSB urges FAA to review existing separation procedures

The NTSB – National Transportation Safety Bureau, has issued a safety recommendation to the FAA – Federal Aviation Administration to review all existing separation standards and operating procedures.

This recommendation comes after the NTSB has reviewed a series of recent events in which air carrier aircraft that were executing a go around came within hazardous proximity to other landing or departing aircraft.

These events occurred at airports controlled by the FAA in which ATC procedures permit takeoff and landing operations on non-intersecting runways with intersecting arrivals or departure paths and have resulted in flight crews having to execute evasive maneuvers at low altitude to avoid collisions.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The NTSB manifests its concern that actual FAA separation procedures are inadequate to prevent such events

 Recent Events

Dotcom Flight 2374 and Spirit Airlines Flight 511, Las Vegas, Nevada

On July 30, 2012, about 1944 coordinated universal time (UTC), two airplanes came within hazardous proximity of one another at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS is one example of an airport that has runway layout and procedures that facilitate independent converging runway operations), when Spirit Airlines flight 511, an Airbus Industries A319, was executing a go-around from runway 19L and Dotcom flight 2374, a Cessna Citation 510, was landing on runway 7R (see figure 2). Runways 19 L/R and 7L intersect and may not be operated independently of one another. Runway 7R is located approximately 1,000 feet south of runway7L and does not intersect any other landing surface, permitting controllers to conduct arrival and departure operations independently of all other runways; however, the flight path of runway 19L intersects the flight path of runway 7R. The airplanes were being controlled by separate LAS ATC tower controllers operating on different frequencies. The pilot of Spirit Airlines flight 511 announced that the airplane was “on the go,” and the air traffic controller immediately responded with “traffic ahead and to your right landing 7R is a Citation out of 2600 off your right.”

The transmission was not acknowledged, and the controller instructed Spirit Airlines flight 511 to “expedite your climb.” The pilot of Spirit Airlines flight 511 never reported Dotcom flight 2374 in sight. When the controller responsible for Dotcom flight 2374 recognized that Spirit Airlines flight511 was executing a go-around, he notified the Dotcom flight 2374 pilot of the position of Spirit Airlines flight 511 but did not provide any control instructions to ensure that the airplanes avoided one another. According to recorded radar data, the pilot of Dotcom flight 2374 turned the airplane off of the final approach course to the left to pass behind Spirit Airlines flight 511, then turned back to the runway and landed on runway 7R. Spirit Airlines flight 511 passed in front of and slightly above Dotcom flight 2374 on short final. The reported closest proximity was 0.21 nautical miles (nm) laterally and 100feet vertically. There were no injuries reported to passengers or flight crew and no damage reported to either airplane.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 2. Spirit Airlines flight 511 (red dots) executed a go-around while attempting to land on runway 19L. Dotcom flight 2374 (blue dots) was simultaneously landing on runway 7R.

Read NTSB Safety Recommendation A-13-024











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