FAA Investigates Near-Collision at DC Airport

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Aviation authorities investigate a Tuesday afternoon, July 31, 2012 incident at Reagan National Airport, shown here on Thursday, in which controllers mistakenly directed three jetliners closer than allowed. Two commuter planes were cleared to depart the only runway as another plane was on approach for landing. The error was discovered in time.

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By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — Three planes at Reagan National Airport recently came close to crashing because of an air traffic control “miscommunication,” federal authorities said Thursday.

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon when air traffic controllers were making adjustments for landing and departing aircraft because of bad weather.

“During the switchover of operations, miscommunication between the Tracon and the DCA tower led to a loss of the required separation between two regional jets departing from Runway 1 and a regional jet inbound for Runway 19,” the Federal Aviation Administration said.

“Tracon,” or terminal radar approach control, is a reference to a regional radar facility. “DCA” is the International Air Transport Association code for Reagan National Airport.

The FAA is investigating and plans to take “appropriate action to address the miscommunication.”

Authorities didn’t identify the airlines involved in the incident, but US Airways issued a statement saying, “We are currently investigating and working with the FAA to determine what occurred. The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that it will investigate.

Its probe will involve a review of communications recordings and radar data, as well as interviews with supervisors and controllers in coming days, according to NTSB spokesman Eric M. Weiss.

“Safety is NATCA’s top priority,” added Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “We are always looking to enhance the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System, and we will participate in any investigation that looks into improving the system.”

CNN’s Mike Ahlers contributed to this report

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