NTSB Issues Update On Near-Collision On Pennsylvania Runway

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The NTSB on Wednesday issued an update into its investigation of a September incident when a Canadair CRJ-700 regional jet taking off with 56 passengers had to swerve to avoid a Cessna 172 that was on the runway. Nobody was hurt, but the jet crew said they cleared the Cessna by only 10 feet, and their flight was cancelled so the jet could be checked for damage. It was about 7:30 at night when the incident took place, and according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, both controllers in the Lehigh International Airport, in Allentown, Pa., at the time were trainees. The NTSB's factual report says the Cessna pilot contacted the tower while about 8 miles east of the airport, and was cleared to land on Runway 6. The Mesa jet was then cleared to hold short of Runway 6. The Cessna landed, and the Mesa crew was told to taxi into position and hold. The Cessna pilot was told to exit the runway at taxiway A4, and the Mesa crew was then cleared to take off. However, the Cessna pilot missed the turn, and called the controller asking to exit at another taxiway; the controller responded "...no delay, turn immediately," which the Cessna pilot acknowledged. Mesa Air then radioed the tower controller: "We got it, tower - we're going to need to go back to the gate." Following the incident, both aircraft taxied to a parking area. The tire marks created by the Mesa Air regional jet as it veered around the Cessna can be seen on the left side of the centerline in this image, released by the NTSB.

"The FAA is so desperate to staff its towers they are forced to work trainees by themselves without adequate numbers of experienced controllers there to work with them," said NATCA President Patrick Forrey, when the incident took place. "This has exposed the inexperience of our new workforce. It's unfair to these trainees and should be unacceptable to the flying public."