Air Traffic Control Slip-Up Almost Caused Disaster

Paris controller cleared planes to take off, land on same runway
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2021 2:37 PM CDT
Slip of the Tongue Almost Caused Airport Disaster
The control tower at Charles de Gaulle International Airport.   (Wikimedia Commons/Laurenzou33)

Air safety investigators in France say a number of factors almost caused a disaster at the country's biggest airport last year—including the fact that an air traffic controller was out of practice due to reduced flights during the pandemic. According to a report released Tuesday, a United Airlines Boeing 787 came within 300 feet of crashing into an EasyJet Airbus 320 at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport last July. Investigators say the controller had a "slip of the tongue" and told the 787 arriving from Newark to land on runway 9R, which planes had been taking off from, instead of the parallel runway 9L, CNN reports. She also told the EasyJet aircraft to line up for takeoff from 9R.

The report says that when the EasyJet crew saw the United aircraft approaching, they warned the control tower and the United crew of a potential impending collision. The United aircraft aborted the landing and began ascending. At their closest, the planes were around 300 feet apart. Investigators say the controller—who did not have a direct line of sight to the runways in question due to an equipment issue—may have been confused by an earlier United aircraft's request to land on 9R because it needed a longer runway. Another issue was the fact that a United attempt to confirm the runway, which was not answered, used the non-standard term "understand" instead of "confirm," FlightGlobal reports. Nobody on either plane was injured. (Read more air traffic control stories.)

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