Southwest jet avoids collision with smaller plane

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Personal Injury News

Article Date: 2/17/2010 | Resource: MLG

Southwest jet avoids collision with smaller plane

“The pilot of a Burbank-bound 737 with 80 passengers makes an emergency maneuver to avoid a potential crash with a smaller plane Saturday. Two flight attendants were injured.”

Two Southwest Airlines flight attendants were injured when their aircraft had to make an emergency maneuver to avoid a potential collision with a small private plane as the airliner approached Bob Hope Airport, according to preliminary information released Tuesday by federal authorities.

Southwest Airlines Flight 2534 was flying at 6,000 feet Saturday, about 20 miles from Bob Hope Airport, when an alert sounded in the cockpit, warning that the Boeing 737 was on a possible collision course with the other plane that was roughly two miles away, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Information about the incident was made public Tuesday.

The Southwest pilot made an emergency descent and then climbed, causing one of the attendants to break a shoulder and the other to suffer bruises, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. No passengers were injured.

The flight, which had taken off from Las Vegas with 80 passengers, went on to land without incident. The two attendants were treated for their injuries at a hospital and released, said Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis.

McInnis declined additional comment, citing an investigation that has been launched by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane made an abrupt sideways turn as it descended, according to Shauna Marie, who said she was on the flight. “We were going down fast. . . . Everyone was screaming,” said Marie, 25, of Valencia.

As the alarm went off, the private plane’s path diverged from the Southwest airliner’s path because the two were traveling in different directions, Gregor said.

The alarm, known as a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System, is installed in all commercial airliners and sounds if an aircraft is on a potential collision course, the FAA said.

Experts said Tuesday that the airspace around Bob Hope Airport is among the most crowded in the world, with flights departing and arriving from different directions and a number of smaller aircraft heading to and from nearby Van Nuys Airport.

Given the heavy traffic, traffic collision alarms are not unusual for flights departing and leaving Burbank, said John Russell, a commercial pilot and safety coordinator for the Western Pacific region of the Air Line Pilots Assn.

“I have had numerous TCAS events,” said Russell, who flew out of Bob Hope for 2 1/2 years.

He and another expert, however, questioned the evasive action taken by the Southwest pilot and said the move would probably be a focus of federal investigators.

“I don’t know if that kind of abrupt maneuver was necessary,” said Barry Schiff, a former commercial pilot who writes about safety issues for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn.

The pilot may have been able to make a more gentle, rolling-like move to change course, Schiff said.

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, said an investigator from the safety board’s Gardena office had been dispatched to investigate the incident, which is being classified as an accident because the agency considered the injuries serious.

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Jeffrey Marquart