July 14, 2024


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The plane is heading toward another flight path near Portland Airport

The plane is heading toward another flight path near Portland Airport


Two planes came within less than a half-mile of each other in the stormy skies above Portland International Airport last week, prompting a federal investigation.

The close call came when an Alaska Airlines flight departing from Southern California attempted to land on a runway next to where a SkyWest plane took off Monday around 4:15 p.m. According to The Oregonian.

An Alaska plane swerved away and aborted its landing amid increasingly urgent directives from an air traffic controller, according to a publicly available recording and visual simulation. Released by VASAviation.

The newspaper estimated that the distance between the planes was about 1,800 feet horizontally, and they were 250 feet vertically between them.

A midair near-collision occurs when planes are less than 500 feet away from each other, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been investigating.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1299 then began veering toward SkyWest Airlines Flight 3978 after its pilot appeared to confuse her instructions from an air traffic controller and turn right instead of keeping the plane straight.

Visibility at the time of the accident was less than one mile as the area was reportedly flooded by heavy rain and fog.

High winds initially prevented Alaska Flight 1299 from landing, and the plane descended to 100 feet before ascending for a “spin” or other attempt, according to the outlet.

Meanwhile, SkyWest Flight 3978 took off on a parallel runway.

A midair near collision occurs when planes are less than 500 feet away from each other, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Getty Images

The Alaska flight was directed by an air traffic controller to maintain a “runway heading” course while the SkyWest plane was told to turn right. Instead, the seemingly confused pilot of Flight 1299 repeated instructions to the other plane and began heading right, while Flight 3978 continued to head straight.

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Over the next 40 seconds or so, the two planes appeared to be heading toward a possible collision course, and the air traffic controller appeared to become disoriented as he gave increasingly frantic directions, at one point misidentifying the Alaska flight as “1298.”

The Alaska flight was reportedly rerouted to an airport 150 miles away and was unable to land in Portland until 11:45 p.m.

Both companies issued statements to the newspaper downplaying the significance of the incident.

“The crew of Flight 1299 followed cockpit instructions and immediately responded to increased separation from the other aircraft,” an Alaska spokesperson said. “The aircraft maintained a safe amount of lateral separation throughout the entire event.”

“At no time was flight safety compromised,” SkyWest reportedly said.

It was not clear how many people were on board the two planes.

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