Number of airline near-misses appears to be rising

The number of close calls nearly doubled in 2013

FILE - generic airplane

NEW YORK (CNN) – A near mid air collision in April over Newark; a United Airlines 737 landing with 160 passengers comes within 150 yards of a united express regional jet preparing to take off.

Newark ATC audio: “Yeh, we put the nose down he was really close” It’s the fourth time this year a near collision has made headlines.

CNN has learned the number of close calls nearly doubled in 2013, over the previous year. A closer look at the fAA’s newly released stats shows 38 were considered “high risk,” that’s actually three fewer than the previous year, but the number of medium and low risk incidents soared.

In 2014, there’ve been other close calls. April 25th, a United Airlines flight cruising at 33 thousand feet over the Pacific gets too close to a U.S. Airways plane; passengers say the aircraft plunged to avoid disaster.
Then, May 9th in Houston, two United Airlines flights come less than a mile of each other when a controller gives one pilot the wrong instructions; the mistake quickly corrected. ATC: “United 601 stop your turn, stop your climb and stop your turn United 601.”

May 10th in New York, two Jetblue planes come within a mile of each other as one takes off and the other prepares to land.

All of these close calls, or what the FAA calls loss of separation, usually come down to pilot or controller error. According to Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board, “Anytime there is a loss of separation, we are concerned about it because it is not supposed to occur.”

The FAA attributes the spike to its voluntary safety reporting system which allows employees to submit safety incidents confidentially. The FAA says that lead to increased reporting, so its not known if the actual number of incidents have gone up.

The agency tells CNN, “more than 99.99 percent of all air traffic operations occur with no loss of separation, which helps make the U.S. airspace the safest in the world”

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