NTSB Investigating Two Runway Incursions In Cleveland

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The NTSB said this week it is investigating two runway incursions that occurred in June at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, while a controller-in-training was directing the airplanes. On June 26, an ExpressJet Embraer 145, was cleared by the controller to cross Runway 24L at a taxiway in order to depart from Runway 24R. About 19 seconds later, the same controller cleared a CommutAir DH8 for takeoff on Runway 24L. The Express Jet flight crew saw the departing airplane and advised the controller they would not cross the runway. The DH8 rotated about 1,500 feet from where the E-145 was positioned.

Just three weeks earlier, on June 3, a B-737 was cleared by the same controller to taxi into position on the same runway on which an E-145 was cleared for takeoff. The E-145 crew was entering the runway and saw the B-737, and queried the controller. The two flights came within 500 feet of each other on Runway 6L. The controller is still on duty and is expected to complete his training. "This particular trainee had a total of 11 hours of training in the entire month of June," Bob Kerr, of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told CNN. "That's less then an hour a day. He's brand new; he's going to make mistakes."

NATCA spokesman Doug Church told AVweb on Wednesday that system-wide, there are too many controllers in training. "At the Cleveland facility, which has both tower and approach, there are 59 on staff. Of those, 32 are fully certified controllers, and 27 are trainees." A better ratio would be to have about one trainee for every three experienced staffers, Church said. He added that the staffing situation is beginning to stabilize, as fewer controllers are retiring now that contract talks are under way with the new administration in Washington and they are hopeful that their working conditions will improve. The NTSB investigation is expected to take up to nine months.