In a heart-stopping incident last week, passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines flight experienced a moment of terror as their plane narrowly avoided a collision with another aircraft. On the evening of October 16, Alaska Airlines Flight 1299, bound for Portland International Airport, found itself on a dangerous collision course with a SkyWest Airlines Flight 3978 that was in the midst of taking off. Federal officials reported that the Alaska Airlines pilot had to make a swift decision, initiating a go-around due to wind, which inadvertently led the plane into the path of the departing SkyWest passenger jet.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) promptly intervened, with an air traffic controller urgently instructing the Alaska Airlines pilot to change course and avoid the potential catastrophe. According to publicly available flight data analyzed by The Oregonian, the two planes came within a mere 1,800 feet horizontally and 250 feet vertically of each other, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
FAA Standards and Safety Measures
The FAA defines a near midair collision as an incident occurring when an aircraft ventures within less than 500 feet of another plane. This definition also includes situations where a pilot or crew member reports a collision hazard between two or more aircraft. Fortunately, the vigilant air traffic controller’s intervention prevented this incident from escalating into a full-blown disaster.
In response to the incident, Alaska Airlines explained that adverse weather conditions necessitated a routine go-around during the initial approach to landing. The presence of another aircraft departing on a parallel runway added complexity, creating a potential traffic conflict. The crew aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1299 acted swiftly, expertly maneuvering the plane away from the other aircraft’s path, ensuring a safe lateral separation throughout the entire event.
Emphasizing Safety First
Both Alaska Airlines and SkyWest Airlines have emphasized their unyielding commitment to passenger safety. Alaska Airlines reiterated that the safety of their guests and employees is always their top priority. The airline promptly launched an internal review of the incident to assess protocols and procedures. SkyWest Airlines, in their statement, assured the public that the safety of their flight was never compromised. The pilots diligently followed Air Traffic Control instructions, ensuring a secure departure and subsequent routine landing in Seattle.
FAA’s Proactive Measures
This alarming incident underscores the critical importance of stringent safety protocols within the aviation industry. Earlier this year, the FAA introduced additional measures for air traffic controllers to uphold the safety of the U.S. aviation system. These precautions were implemented in response to a concerning rise in near-miss incidents, reminding everyone involved of the paramount importance of vigilance and adherence to protocols in the crowded skies.
In the wake of this close call, aviation authorities and airlines alike are expected to further enhance their safety protocols, ensuring that passengers continue to travel the skies with confidence and security, even in the face of unexpected challenges.
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