Two aircraft came close to colliding on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport last weekend in the latest near miss at the world's fifth busiest passenger airport, officials said.
A SkyWest regional jet nearing takeoff for San Antonio was forced to slam on its brakes when a Gulfstream business jet, registered in the United Kingdom, strayed in front of it Saturday. The Skywest jet, carrying 39 passengers, came to a stop less than 100 feet (30 meters) from the Gulfstream plane.
Air traffic controllers in the tower at LAX said it was the closest they had seen two airplanes come to each other at the facility without colliding. Aviation officials said the incident would likely be classified as the most serious close call at the airport since 2000. It was the eighth near miss this year.
A shaken tower controller can be heard on the radio apologizing to the SkyWest pilot and asking him to leave the runway to make room for a landing aircraft.
"SkyWest 6430, I apologize. We never talked to the Gulfstream. He crossed without clearance," the controller said. "I apologize. If you could make a right turn, please, and exit the runway."
The SkyWest pilot responds, exhaling heavily, "Exiting Right."
Federal Aviation Administration officials said the SkyWest pilot, the tower controller and the ground radar that audibly alerts controllers to impending collisions all noticed the Gulfstream crossing the runway. Controllers had told the Gulfstream pilot to cross an outer runway, then stop short of the inner runway, which was where the near collision occurred.
The pilot of the Gulfstream told officials he was certain that the controller had cleared him to cross both runways, said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman.
"We had three layers of redundancy," Gregor said. "This is just a clear and clean pilot mistake."
The incident underscored long-standing safety issues with the airport's configuration. The unusual layout, featuring two sets of parallel runways, requires pilots landing on an outer runway to cross the inner runway on a series of taxiways. Airplanes cross active runways at LAX about 900 times a day.
Airport officials said Thursday that such incidents should be prevented once construction workers finish moving the southernmost runway 55 feet (16.5 meters) and installing a center taxiway that pilots can use to turn and wait for clearance to cross the inner runway.
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In both cases, a ground radar system designed to alert controllers in the tower to impending collisions sounded an alarm.
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