Modern airports and aircraft are packed with all kinds of technical safety wizardry. But some days, the clouds come down, some signals get crossed, and scary things happen.
In this case, a US Airways Airbus 320 with 90 passengers and five crew members came to within 100 feet of colliding with a much smaller cargo plane over Minneapolis on Sept. 16.[jump]
The Airbus was headed for Philadelphia. The Beech 99 operated by Bemidji Aviation Services was headed for LaCrosse. They took off from parallel runways at MSP at about the same time. And according to the National Transportation Safety Board, they crossed paths perilously close to each other just a half mile from the airport -- without actually ever seeing each other.
What happened? Two different flights were on two separate radio frequencies with air traffic controllers. Now the NTSB has to figure out if the two pilots got conflicting directions, or whether the pilots themselves may not have followed instructions. Or maybe both.
The captain of the US Airways flight reported hearing the Beech 99 pass nearby, NTSB said. But the Beech 99's pilot apparently had no idea it had come so close to the Airbus. Both were in the clouds when the near disaster took place, and tragedy was narrowly averted.