FAA and NTSB investigates whether planes were too close at Newark Airport

Jim Hoffer with the report. (WABC)
April 25, 2014 4:14:15 PM PDT
When an airport has planes landing and taking off on intersecting runways, timing is everything.

At Newark Liberty yesterday timing was a little off and it nearly caused a mid-air disaster.

Air Traffic Control cleared United Flight 1243 to land. Soon after, the tower gives Express Jet Flight 4100 the go ahead to take off on an intersecting runway.

As the Express Jet rolls down the runway, United flight 1243 is seconds from touching down when the tower tells the pilot to abort the landing to avoid colliding with the Express jet.

The departing Express Jet pilot also takes evasive action by pushing the plane's nose down to avoid hitting the United plane filled with passengers.

"Okay yeah, we're putting the nose down. Yeah he was real close. Yeah he was real close sir," said the Express Jet Pilot.

A former commercial airline pilot who listened to the air traffic control transmissions of the close call credits the Express Jet pilot for avoiding disaster above Newark's runways.

"The pilot taking off did exactly what he was supposed to do, he saw a conflict and he reacted to avoid it," said JP Tristani.

A Newark airport source tells Eyewitness News the two planes were 500 feet or less from colliding. An eyewitness who was driving on the turnpike extension near the runways agrees they were seconds from impact.

"As he's coming down, I saw plane pitching up at steep angle, I said that's steep for a landing. He started tasking back off again and I said he's going back around just as he's doing that I saw another jet coming across the runway. I went whoa, he cut right through, I thought for sure they were going to hit," said David Sodermeyer.

Both the NTSB and the FAA are investigating the Newark close-call. Possible controller error will be looked at here since both planes had been given clearance.

We should note that the airport's largest runway is closed for two months for renovations which has caused big delays and put immense pressure on air traffic control to keep planes moving.