April 23rd, 2010
11:59 PM ET

Planes nearly collide at California airport

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the near collision of a Southwest Airlines jet and a small private plane at Southern California's Bob Hope Airport.

Southwest's Flight 649, carrying 119 passengers and five crew members on board a Boeing 737-700, was landing at the airport's runway 8 on Monday while the Cessna 172, departing on runway 15, just cleared the jet.

The Cessna was performing a practice maneuver known as a "touch and go," in which the aircraft briefly lands before accelerating and going airborne again, the NTSB said.

Runways 8 and 15 intersect at the Burbank airport. The aircraft came within 200 feet of each other vertically and 10 feet laterally at the runway intersection, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Nobody was injured, and weather conditions were clear.

Improving runway safety is one of NTSB's "most wanted" goals. The deadliest U.S. runway accident occurred in August 2006, when Comair Flight 5191 crashed after taking off from the wrong runway, killing all but one of the 50 people on board. The worst involving two aircraft happened between a US Airways jet and a commuter plane in a February 1991 collision at the Los Angeles airport, killing 34.

The world's deadliest aviation accident also happened on a runway. In March 1977, two jumbo jets collided on a runway at the Canary Islands, killing 583 passengers and crew members.

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soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Bart

    This story leaves out the most important details. What was going on in the control tower?

    April 24, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. Stephanm Billings, Montana

    Great article,,,,,,,,not! Who was cleared to be in the area at the time? Were both aricraft given authoriization to be where they were? How about a follow-up on this one please!

    April 24, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Chris G

    Why on earth was a Cessna cleared to be doing Touch and Go's at Bob Hope Airport in the first place?

    April 24, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Paul Wisgerhof

    This is a tower controlled airport. The controllers should not have cleared the Cessna for a "touch and go" while they had a 737 landing on the crossing runway. The pilot of the Cessna could not and would not have executed a "touch and go" without the permission of the tower controller(s) even while under visual flight rules. All pilots must use "see and avoid" rules under visual flight conditions, but the controllers are responsible for assuring safe separation of all aircraft operations in, to, and on their airport. If the Cessna was operating under instrument flight rules for training, the aircraft should not have been cleared "for the option", which means that the flight instructor can have the student: a) full stop landing, b) execute a missed approach and go around without touching the runway; or, c) do a touch and go. The controllers should never allow a "for the option" clearance when there is traffic on a crossing runway.

    April 24, 2010 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. Buns66

    I grew up in Burbank, and that's a tricky airport. Not much space and pretty short runways. Have landed there (safely, thank the Lord), many times!!

    April 24, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. bbeerbower

    Why are smaller aircraft and commercial jets using the same airports? there are plenty of
    smaller airports throughout the US and most are within a few miles of a commercial airport. there appears to be no reason for these airplanes to share the same airports and runways.

    April 24, 2010 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. avaza

    I remember some 7-8 years ago I was on a race Portland -> Atlanta (or Atlanta -> Portland?) when a near collision almost happened.
    As our plane was coming in to land, with some 50-100 feet left til touchdown, it suddenly changed angle to ~45 degrees upwards and pulled out. It picked up altitude and started going in a large circle. 1/3 into the circle pilot comes on and says something like "Hey folks, sorry for the inconvenience but apparently there was a plane on the runway we were landing on."
    Needless to say everyone was relived and I'm glad pilot managed to stay cool and get us out.

    But yea, considering the unbelievably many flights going around every day, these things are bound to happen even at a .001% here's a video on air traffic worldwide which is pretty sweet (youtube(dot)(com)/watch?v=1XBwjQsOEeg)

    April 24, 2010 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. wade

    Look people even though it is 2010 these aircraft are STILL operated by humans. NO one is perfect we have established that time and time again!!! No one was hurt so just let it go..We all make mistakes from day to day because we are human not machines..

    April 24, 2010 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Elaine Mucciola

    On Tuesday, April 20th, I was on a Southwest Airliner traveling from Houston's Hobby Airport to Philadelphia which was scheduled to land in Philadelphia at approximately 2:50 PM. As we were decending into Philadelphia – in perfectly clear and sunny weather – and within what seemed like several hundred feet from the touch down (runway) the pilot suddenly accelerated and pulled the plane up very quickly and sharply until we were once again high in the sky over Philadelphia. After what seemed like an eternity the pilot came onto the radio and apologized for the "fly-around" stating that another plane was on a conflicting runway. We never were told how serious an incident is was, but it would appear that only the fast action of the pilot(s) averted a problem.

    April 24, 2010 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bryan

    Tragedy avoided.

    April 24, 2010 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Michael

    I don't know why we allow hobby planes, and even most private jets, anywhere near airports with commercial traffic. They're a toy for the rich and a menace to everybody else. They're loud overhead, clog up airports, their inexperienced pilots aren't safe, and they're a national safety disaster waiting to happen (think about the IRS bomber).

    April 24, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  12. foxglove

    Small aircraft should be band from big commercial airports. Take your toys to small air fields.

    April 24, 2010 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. sholayevents

    This is the second close call recently (the other was in SF) involving a Cessna and passenger jet. Please, NTSB, ban these rich boy toys from commercial traffic!

    April 24, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. Derek Jennings

    Uhh.....because it's a free country. Your logic is a lot like saying, "why do we allow personal vehicles on the interstates? They get in the way of commercial trucks and buses." As a pilot myself, your ignorance of the world scares me.

    April 24, 2010 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. JD

    As an airline pilot as well as a certified flight instructor, knee-jerk comments from uneducated folks serve no purpose. Until investegated you have no idea who was at fault here...ATC, the SWA pilot or the general aviation pilot.

    April 24, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
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