Every story about airplanes narrowly avoiding catastrophe serves the dual function of making you feel more and less afraid of flying at the same time. The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a near-miss between two passenger planes last month at Newark Liberty International was closer than previously reported: the two planes were just 50 yards apart laterally as one tried to land and another tried to take off.
The NTSB is classifying the incident as a "near midair collision," which took place at 3 p.m. on April 24th. A United Airlines plane was descending to the runway carrying 155 passengers when a smaller ExpressJet plane with 47 passengers was cleared for take off. The planes were initially separated by 3 miles. According to the report, the ExpressJet delayed its takeoff until the UA plane was only a mile away. NJ.com reports that the minimum distance to be maintained between planes is 2 miles.
Despite being ordered to abort its landing, the UA jet continued to descend, and the two planes narrowly avoided a collision, passing within 158 feet laterally and 400 feet vertically of each other. “This was too close,” former NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker told CBS News. “And it was by a combination of the air traffic controllers finally recognizing the situation and excellent airmanship, professionalism in the cockpit that saved the day.”