United Jet Brakes to Miss Denver Snowplow

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the second close call at Denver International Airport in a month after a jet slammed on the brakes and stopped just 200 feet from a snowplow on the runway.

The crew of the jet, a United Airlines Boeing 737 arriving Friday at 5:38 p.m. from Billings, Mont., was forced to apply maximum braking and full engine thrust reversers to avoid the plow.

On Jan. 5, a Key Lime Air charter cargo plane ventured out onto the end of Runway 35L just as a Frontier Airlines jet was about to touch down on the strip. The Frontier pilot aborted the landing and circled around to try again, but not before the planes came within 50 feet of one another, the NTSB said in a statement.

Friday's incident happened after an airport operations vehicle escorted the plow onto Runway 8/26, the NTSB said.

The escort was in radio contact with the air traffic control tower, but NTSB said it doesn't know if the plow operator had radio contact with either the escort or the tower.

For reasons still unknown, the plow remained behind when the escort vehicle left the runway.

Runway 8/26 is a 12,000-foot east-west strip along the huge airfield's northeast edge. When United Flight 1193 approached from the east and touched down, the pilot saw the plow.

The crew was able to stop the plane on the runway. There were no injuries among the 101 people on board.

Visibility at the time was reported to be 10 miles.

The NTSB investigation will include tapes of tower audio communications, the aircraft flight data recorder and radar. Interviews will be conducted with the pilots, ground vehicle drivers and air traffic controllers.

A United spokeswoman said the airline is cooperating with the NTSB. NTSB officials declined further comment as is customary once the agency opens an investigation.

DIA officials wouldn't comment on the facts of the incident, saying it is limited in what it can say given the investigation.

However, they have started extra snowplow driver training to familiarize crews better with the airfield and the rules for access.

"We will also look at other safety aspects relative to our airfield driver training program and airfield operations to see if there are ways that we can improve," said Turner West, DIA's aviation manager.

"I want the traveling public to know that we take this incident very seriously, and safety is the absolute top priority at this airport," he said.

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