Close Calls At Newark, BWI

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Within days of the FAA declaring that serious runway incursions were on the decline and the Government Accountability Office warning of the danger of a "catastrophic runway collision", a couple of pretty close ones occurred at two of the U.S.ís busiest airports. Late Thursday, a Continental Express pilot taxied onto a runway at Newark Liberty Airport after being told to hold short. The inbound Continental flight on short final had to land long to avoid the other aircraft. The previous Sunday, a Comair flight took off over a US Airways flight that had just landed on an intersecting runway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. In both cases, the FAA says the aircraft came within 300 feet of each other. The GAO report released on Wednesday said the overall number of incursions is on the way up, with 370 recorded last year. But the FAA countered that the number of "serious" incursions (generally where evasive action is required or the aircraft pass close to one another) dropped from 31 in 2006 to 24 in 2007. The FAA says itís working on the issue by upgrading signage and deploying ground movement warning systems. Itís also testing a simple flashing light aimed at aircraft on final to warn them if the runway is unsafe or occupied.