JetBlue captain narrowly avoids head-on collision at Colorado airport as near-miss incidents surge in US

There were 46 "close calls" between commercial airlines in July.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
A JetBlue captain narrowly avoided a head-on collision on the runway at a Colorado airport. The plane's tail struck the runway during the pilot's quick-thinking maneuver, causing substantial damage to the aircraft, federal investigators said.

This incident comes as near-miss collisions surge at airports across the country due to air traffic controller shortages, Daily Mail reports.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday that the JetBlue Airbus A320 was taking off on the same runway as a Beechcraft King Air 350 that was about 5 miles from landing on the runway at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Jan. 22, 2022.

In order to avoid a collision, the captain and co-pilot expedited the takeoff and pointed the nose of his jet up quicker than normal "due to his surprise about encountering head-on landing traffic."

The JetBlue captain said he never saw the incoming aircraft but the plane's collision-avoidance software alerted him to the near disaster.

"I hope you don't hit us," the King Air crew said to the JetBlue pilots after they had announced the plane was beginning to taxi on the runway.

The aircrafts were approximately 2.6 miles apart when the JetBlue Airbus A320 initiated its ascent and rightward turn away from the airport, according to the NTSB data. 

Aircraft near-miss collisions are on the increase in the United States amid a significant air traffic controller staffing shortage. Controllers say they have been pushed to the brink, working 10-hour shifts 6 days per week on irregular schedules, according to the outlet.

As per the target staffing levels established by the FAA and the controllers' union, 99 percent of air traffic control sites in the United States are currently understaffed.

There were 46 "close calls" between commercial airlines in July, the Federal Aviation Administration reported.

On July 11, two departing aircrafts in San Francisco came perilously close to colliding with a Frontier Airlines aircraft that had just landed. As it awaited runway crossing, the Frontier jet's nose was dangerously near to the trajectory of the other two jets. 

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and a Cessna Citation 560X business jet passed within 100 feet of one another in San Diego in August.

The FAA reports that a controller permitted the Cessna to land on a runway when he had previously directed Southwest Flight 2493 to taxi onto the same runway.

A private aircraft that had departed without authorization nearly collided with a JetBlue landing at Logan International Airport in Boston in February.

"A plane that had been cleared to land on runway 04 was forced to perform a go-around, passing approximately 400 feet above them," the crew of the private jet was informed. "They had taken off without authorization."

An independent review board released a set of suggestions aimed at enhancing safety within the national airspace last month.

The FAA stated that it would implement several of the recommendations immediately, including measures to increase the capacity for hiring and training controllers, Daily Mail reports.

Furthermore, the FAA released a statement following the Times report about the increase in near-misses and said the report "does not reflect the high level of safety of our nation's airspace."

"Flying has never been safer, due in large part to our air traffic controllers. We encourage them to report safety concerns and incidents without fear of reprisal," the agency added.

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