Albany Times Union

Jet incident raises air safety concerns

- By Ian Duncan

The Federal Aviation Administra­tion said Tuesday it is investigat­ing after a regional jet made a wrong turn last week and crossed a runway at Reagan National Airport as a United Airlines flight was preparing to take off.

The incident took place about 8:30 a.m. March 7. It’s the latest of several incidents at U.S. airports in recent weeks to catch the attention of regulators, lawmakers and the airline industry. The FAA’S announceme­nt Tuesday on the investigat­ion came a day before a Northern Virginia summit in which transporta­tion leaders are expected to address the issue.

In the most recent event to prompt a federal probe, the FAA said air traffic control at Reagan National, just outside Washington, D.C., cleared a Republic Airways Embraer 175 to taxi across a runway. At about the same time, another controller cleared a United Airbus A319 to take off from another runway. But the FAA said Republic pilots didn’t follow their clearance, taking the aircraft in a different direction and crossing the runway that the United flight was about to use.

The FAA said a controller noticed what was happening and intervened.

The FAA is preparing to gather aviation industry and labor leaders Wednesday to address a series of near misses that have concerned agency officials and prompted several National Transporta­tion Safety Board investigat­ions. Acting FAA administra­tor Billy Nolen has said that flying remains safe, but that he wants the summit to lead to “concrete actions” in response to the recent incidents.

United and Republic did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment about the incident at Reagan National.

The FAA said it would determine how close the planes came. Preliminar­y public data from Flightrada­r24 indicates it was not as serious as recent near misses that have attracted scrutiny. The United flight was traveling at 6 knots when the Republic plane crossed the runway. They were more than 2,300 feet apart, according to the data.

The incident unfolded in a few seconds, according to air traffic control recordings archived by

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