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Air Traffic Controller’s Confusion Almost Led to Collision of Planes at Paris Airport

The incident happened due to a mix-up by the air traffic controller. (Representative Image, Credits: Shutterstock)

The incident happened due to a mix-up by the air traffic controller. (Representative Image, Credits: Shutterstock)

A Boeing 787 of the United Airlines had come within 300 feet of crashing with an easyJet Airbus A320 on July 20, 2020. The incident happened due to a mix-up by the air traffic controller.

A slip of tongue by an air traffic controller at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris almost caused a collision between two aircraft in July last year. According to a recently released report by the French air safety investigation authority for civil aviation (BEA), a Boeing 787 of the United Airlines had come within 300 feet of crashing with an easyJet Airbus A320 on July 20, 2020. The incident happened due to a mix-up by the air traffic controller. On that day, planes taking off from the Paris Airport were using the 09R runway, while the aircraft’s landing has to use 09L. However, the air traffic controller told the United Airline plane with 73 people on board to land on 09R.

The crew on the United Airline plane coming in from Newark, New Jersey, tried to confirm the change of runaway with the ground control, but the controller missed the readback. He asked the easyJet plane to line up for takeoff from runway 09R, NBC News reported. As the easyJet plane got ready for takeoff, the pilot noticed the United Airline plane getting ready to land on the same runaway.

The easyJet crew immediately informed the controller about the United Airline plane and warned about a potential collision between the two aircrafts. The United Airline plane was still flying at a height of 300 ft, 1300 meters away from the end of the runway. This gave the pilots enough time to abort the landing and they ascended back into the air after instruction from the traffic controller.

The controller told investigators that there were many reasons for this confusion from her end. She mentioned that shortly before this incident happened, an Air France 787 had requested to land on 09R due to a technical problem and this contributed to the confusion. She also added that she was in the middle of switching computer screens and had no direct view of the 09R runways because she was facing away from them.

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first published:July 22, 2021, 15:18 IST