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Airliners too close for comfort over New York

Small airport

By Laura Ly

CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) — A Delta 747 Jumbo Jet arriving over New York and a departing Shuttle America Embraer airliner came close enough to each other to trigger a federal investigation, the FAA told CNN on Friday.

Both aircraft landed safety after the June 13 incident, the Federal Aviation Administration said, which took place about 2,000 feet above the New York borough of Queens.

“We’re cooperating with the FAA on the incident,” Delta Air Lines told CNN.

The Delta jet, which was bound for John F. Kennedy Airport, apparently came unusually close to the Shuttle America Embraer E170, which was departing from nearby LaGuardia Airport.

Both planes were turning away from each other at the point where they “lost the required separation,” an FAA spokeswoman said.

At their closest, the two planes were separated by about half a mile horizontally and about 200 feet vertically, the FAA told CNN. They were required to have separation of three miles horizontally or 1,000 feet vertically.

The 747 is one of the world’s largest passenger airliners, with a capacity of about 350 to 400 seats. The Shuttle America E170 had a capacity of 70 to 80 passengers, according to Embraer’s website.

Daily air traffic in the region is complicated, to say the least, with JFK, LaGuardia and Newark’s Liberty International Airport sharing the skies.

“New York has a very, very tight airspace,” said Phil Derner, founder of the aviation news site NYCAviation.com. “You’re talking about three major, packed airports that are trying to act in unison. It can be very unforgiving.”

The scare follows a string of close calls during the past few years across the nation’s skies.

Last year, a control tower miscommunication resulted in three airplanes barely missing each other over the nation’s capital.

Also last year, a passenger plane over Denver was caught on radar steering directly into a line of other aircraft, narrowly avoiding a collision.

In 2010, a pilot took a wrong turn at Boston’s Logan International Airport, steering directly into the path of another plane. A crash was avoided after an air traffic controller quickly called for the plane to stop.

CNN’s Mike M. Ahlers, Jesse Solomon, Dave Alsup and Rene Marsh contributed to this report.

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