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Controller, 737 Crew Suspended After Cirrus Intercept

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The FAA said on Tuesday it is investigating an incident in which a Southwest 737 crew allegedly flew too close to a Cirrus at the request of a controller. The incident took place about 5 p.m. on Sunday, when a controller in the Central Florida Tracon asked the 737 crew if they would check on an SR22 that had been out of radio contact for over an hour. The Southwest crew approached the Cirrus and told ATC they saw two people in the cockpit, then turned away. About 30 seconds later the Cirrus pilot contacted Jacksonville Center. Both aircraft landed safely at their destinations. "Preliminary information indicates that there was a loss of required separation between the two aircraft," the FAA said. The controller, who is a supervisor, has been suspended. Southwest also suspended the flight crew pending an investigation.

"By placing this passenger aircraft in close proximity to another plane, the air traffic controller compromised the safety of everyone involved. This incident was totally inappropriate," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "We are reviewing the air traffic procedures used here and making sure everyone understands the protocols for contacting unresponsive aircraft." The FAA didn't say how close the airplanes came. The Southwest flight had originated in Phoenix and landed in Orlando. Another ATC supervisor was suspended just last week, after he admitted to napping while on an overnight shift in the tower.

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