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Close Call: Two Planes Nearly Collide Over Houston

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Air traffic controllers have the trust of the flying public. And when things go right, little gets noticed outside the occasional and very rare “applause” during landing. But when things go wrong, as it almost did last Thursday, the consequences can result in a terrible tragedy.

Just this past Thursday, things didn’t go as planned. A Singapore Airlines 777 operated flight over Houston came within 200 feet vertically and 1/2 mile horizontally of a Delta Airlines A320 operated flight.

The most recent incident occurred Thursday just before 7 p.m. A Singapore Airlines 777, a jumbo jet, flew within 200 feet vertically and within about more than half-mile horizontally of a Delta Airlines A320. That’s a separation of about eight football fields horizontally.



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That’s the second close call in Houston in the past few months. Glad things worked out, but it sounds a little too close for my comfort.

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About the author: The Weekly Flyer is writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Scott July 5, 2014, 7:20 pm

    While still a close call, the two aircraft where not 200 feet apart, as you state in your 2nd paragraph. They were 200 feet apart vertically, but 2600 feet (1/2 mile) horizontally. Using some geometry, and an online calculator, it looks like they were about 2608 feet apart.

  • The Weekly Flyer July 5, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Hi Scott – Thanks for the comment and the quick math.

  • Billy July 5, 2014, 7:54 pm

    Canadian rules football, maybe?

  • Chris July 5, 2014, 10:13 pm

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the changes to Houston airspace for continuous descent.

    I have fairly good spatial awareness, but I’m blown away by how controllers can manage airspace in three dimensions considering the crazy calculations they have to make intuitively about vectoring. I’m sure that they’ll learn from these close calls and be setting new efficiency records soon.

  • Boon July 6, 2014, 9:55 am

    No way to know if this was a controller error or pilot error. Pilots make mistakes too, one aircraft could have been assigned 6,000 and instead started to climb to 7,000 where the other aircraft was. The numbers are also being reduced to further sensationalize the situation. The incredibly confusing phrase “about more than half-mile” really should read “.8 mile” which is more like ~4200ft+ or in other words 14 football fields not 8. Neither is acceptable but for a normally informed travel savvy group who ridicules the news for their aviation reporting you take the horribly uninformed word of the same people as Gospel when one of these “close call” stories comes out every time.

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