Near Collision After LAX Controller Error



Near Collision After LAX Controller Error

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento airplane crash attorney. On 16 December, two planes nearly collided near the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after an air traffic controller gave the wrong directions to one of the airliners.

What happened?

On 16 December, a San Diego air traffic controller directed an EVA Air flight to turn left instead of right after departed LAX at approximately 1:20 a.m. As a result, the flight moved toward Altadena and into the path of an Air Canada flight that also departed from LAX.

As the EVA Air flight went over the mountains near Altadena, the controller realized her mistake and attempted to redirect the flight. The pilot did not respond for over a minute. Eventually, the flight crew responded to the controller’s directions and climbed to a higher altitude, thereby avoiding a collision with the Air Canada flight and the mountains over Altadena.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that the two planes were never closer than 3 miles to each other.

The FAA is investigating the cause of the controller’s error and the EVA Air flight’s delayed response to the controller’s corrections .

Injuries from the Near-Miss

No one in either aircraft was injured in the near-collision, as is common in these near-misses.

How did it happen?

The controller’s error was likely the result of a large workload. Air traffic controllers are often responsible for communicating vital information to nearly a dozen aircraft at once. Mistakes do happen as a result, but the FAA strictly regulates air traffic controllers. In fact, the controller who made the error will have to be completely re-certified as a consequence of her mistake.

Has something like this happened before?

Near air collisions are a fairly regular occurrence as there are an estimated 7,000 planes and nearly 10,000 helicopters in the air at any given moment. Many of these near misses are classified by the NTSB as Category C or below, meaning the pilots often have ample time and distance to avoid the collision.

Typical Injuries After Controller Errors

Serious injures do not typically result from near collisions after an air traffic controller error; however, minor ones are relatively common. Those injured typically sustain cervical sprain injuries from the abrupt movement of the aircraft or broken bones due to falls from the unexpected motions.

The most serious injuries after an air traffic controller error results when the planes are unable to avoid collision or over stretch the aircraft while attempting to avoid collision. In both scenarios, the subsequent aircraft crash is almost always fatal to all on board the airplane. The last deaths in the United States due to controller error was in 2000 when two small planes crashed in the air over Zion, Illinois.

Who is most at risk of near-accidents like this?

People who fly in and out of high flight volume airports are the most likely people to experience accidents due to controller errors. Locally, San Francisco International (SFO) has the highest volume of flights and has actually experienced several near collisions as a result.

On 26 May 2007, SFO actually experienced the most severe runway incursion in over a decade due a controller error. In that incident, a Skywest flight flew within 100 feet of a Republic Airlines plane. No serious injuries resulted, but several people sustained minor whiplash injuries.

Sacramento Airplane Crash Attorneys

I am Ed Smith, an airplane crash attorney in Sacramento and the Bay area. If you or someone close to you has been injured or killed in a plane accident, please call me at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. You may also reach me toll-free at (800) 404-5400.

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Image Attribution: Wikimedia Commons

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