Two jets within seconds of mid-air collision
LONDON - Two passenger jets came within 10 seconds of a mid-air collision above Central London before intervention by an air-traffic controller averted the disaster.
The jets from United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, carrying 707 people in all, came as close as 200 metres to each other before a computer-activated collision-course alarm warned them of the danger.
The two jets were on their final approach to Heathrow in the early hours of Sunday on Aug 20, reported The Times of London.
Once the alarm sounded, air-traffic controllers at West Drayton immediately told the pilot of United Flight 998: ''Take urgent avoiding action now! Turn on to a heading of 270 degrees to avoid airliner.''
The captain of the United Boeing 777, carrying 278 passengers and 14 crew from Boston, calmly replied: ''Understood. Immediate action taken. I have got the other aircraft beneath me in my sight.''
After the near miss, the air-traffic controller told the United pilot that the Virgin aircraft was ''going 600 feet underneath you''.
Virgin Flight 22, from Washington, was carrying 400 passengers and 15 crew. Both jets, flying at about 480 km per hour, were descending towards Heathrow at different angles but could have collided within moments.
A pilot who listened in on the exchange between the controller and the United pilot said: ''It was a computer conflict alarm that saved the day and prevented what could have been the worst air disaster in Britain.
''Can you imagine the devastation if these jets had come down in the Westminster region - on the Houses of Parliament?''
A Civil Aviation authority said the incident had been investigated and the conclusion was that safety had not been compromised.
A far more nonchalant Virgin Atlantic spokesman said: ''These incidents are not uncommon in the stacking system for aircraft waiting for permission to land at Heathrow.''
This latest incident comes shortly after Britain's air traffic watchdog issued a safety alert after an increasing number of cases of radio hackers posing as controllers and issuing false instructions to airline pilots descending to land at British airports.
In all 20 cases reported so far this year, the pilots eventually realised they were talking to fake air-traffic controllers.
That shows you how British ATC handle the problem, eh?
Source:Project Eyeball S'pore