Appalled by Tape of Near-Collision, Board Seeks Action

MIAMI - The frantic voice of air traffic controller John Galland asking an aircraft to "stop, stop," several times to avoid a collision was heard by members of a federal agency Thursday.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C., also watched a simulation of the July 11 incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in which an incoming Delta jet nearly collided with a United outbound flight.

And many were outraged.

Chairman Mark Rosenker says better technology needs to be installed in planes and on the ground "before we have to explain to the families why a decision was not made when the technology was out there," he says.

Even before that incident, the Federal Aviation Administration had begun to install equipment that would allow air traffic controllers to observe the position of planes on the ground, says Greg Meyer, spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

"During peak times, it will enhance the efficiency and safety of aircraft moving on our airfield," Meyer says.

He said the equipment would be operational at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport by next September.

NTSB members unanimously approved directing the FAA to install Airport Surface Detection Equipment at the smaller airports without them. They also talked about installing air traffic screens in cockpits.

"We're human beings and there will be errors," says Steve Chealander, a former pilot and NTSB board member. "We have to give them as many opportunities to reduce those errors."

On July 11 at 2:37 p.m., a United Airlines jet bound for Dulles International Airport had been cleared for takeoff. The United plane was instructed to taxi to runway 9L via taxiway T7. The pilot failed to make a left turn onto the T7 taxiway.

At the same time, an incoming Delta flight from Atlanta was scheduled to land on runway 9L. Its landing gear was touching the ground when the pilot detected the urgency in the controller's voice and decided to bring the aircraft back up.

The Delta flight flew over the United Airlines jet by less than a 100 feet.

Passenger Paul Zappia told The Miami Herald at the time that the pilot told passengers that an unauthorized plane was in the middle of the runway. "And we had to avoid it," Zappia said, recalling the pilot's words.

In the past seven years, the NTSB has investigated 10 runway incursions at Miami International and nine at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International.