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FAA, NTSB Investigate After Near-Collision Over National Airport

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Three aircraft had a close call July 31 at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Virginia. 
Andrew Deci (http://www.flickr.com/photos/fredericksburg/2345835861/)
Three aircraft had a close call July 31 at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Virginia. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are reportedly investigating a near mid-air collision of three planes taking off and landing at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Federal officials say three commuter jets flew too close to each other — although authorities say the planes were never on a collision course.  Between them, the planes were carrying 192 passengers and crew members.

FAA administrator Michael Heurta says bad weather forced traffic controllers to change the direction planes were traveling to fly into Reagan National. "In the course of the changing the direction of the airport operation, the miscommunication led to a loss of separation between three regional jets."

In other words, two outbound jets were positioned to take off in the same direction or path as an arriving aircraft.

Huerta says an air traffic controller at Reagan realized the planes were getting too close — at one point just 800 feet —and acted quickly.

"She told airline, turn to heading 180, or in common terms, head south," says Huerta.

USAirways spokesman Todd Lehmacher told the Associated Press an email that the airline is "currently investigating and working with the FAA to determine what occurred."

Reagan Air Traffic Control came under fire last year when it came out that an overnight controller had fallen asleep at his post, and did not respond to a plane coming in for a landing.

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