The sky above Newark Liberty International Airport was the scene of a “near midair collision” on the afternoon of April 24. How “near”? Quite! According to a new report from the National Transportation Safety Board, a United Airlines flight carrying 161 people and an ExpressJet plane carrying 50 people came within 200 lateral feet and 400 vertical feet of each other as the first landed and the second took off on intersecting runways. The Star-Ledger notes that the required minimum distance between two aircraft is two miles.
Here’s how the almost-crash almost happened: The flights were three miles apart when the ExpressJet was given permission to take off, but the pilot delayed his departure until United’s Boeing 737 was only a mile away from Newark. Luckily, the air traffic controller quickly alerted both planes to the danger, and the Boeing aborted its landing while the smaller plane kept its nose down as it departed. “He was real close, sir,” the ExpressJet pilot informed the people on the ground once he had passed the Boeing. So, now you — along everyone on those flights who didn’t notice their unusual proximity to the other aircraft at time — know, not that there’s much that anyone can do with the information besides freak out during their next plane ride.