Sensenbrenner Conducts Oversight on FAA to Make Future Air Travel Safer
~personal flight prompted investigation~
Jul 7, 2010 -
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today announced that he is personally working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help ensure better communication between air traffic controllers, after United Flight 612, which he was on, avoided a near collision during a thunderstorm in Washington, D.C. on the afternoon of Monday, June 28.
Sensenbrenner’s flight, United 612, was pushed off its original flight path because of severe weather in the area. The Washington Air Traffic Control Center put Sensenbrenner’s flight in a holding pattern over the D.C. suburbs. While Sensenbrenner’s flight was holding at 13,000 feet, a breakdown in communication led to another air traffic control sector clearing a different aircraft to climb to 15,000 feet, setting that plane on a course converging with United 612.
The pilots of the two converging flights became aware of the problem when the alarms on both planes’ Traffic Collision Avoidance System were triggered. The pilot of United 612 made an evasive maneuver to offer more distance between his flight and the approaching second jet, which was less than one mile away with a vertical separation of approximately 600 feet. Air traffic control procedures require lateral separation to be three nautical miles and 1,000 feet vertical in this scenario. In the air traffic control recording, the pilot is heard saying to his air traffic controller, “that was close.”
“Upon landing at Reagan National Airport, I immediately called the FAA to alert them of the situation and requested that they examine the conditions that led to this near collision over a heavily populated area,” Sensenbrenner said. “While no one ever wants to be in such a circumstance, I am pleased that the FAA acted quickly to identify the error with air traffic control operations. Oversight is one of Congress’ most important responsibilities, and I am hopeful that the information gleaned from the flight of United 612 will prove beneficial for air traffic controllers across the country.”
The FAA shared the transcripts, audio recordings and the flight data information of both jets with Sensenbrenner. The FAA told Sensenbrenner that it is committed to sharing this information with air traffic controllers and taking the necessary steps to ensure that operational errors, such as what happened with United 612, do not reoccur.