by Michelle Franzen
Airports, air traffic controllers and airlines are struggling with a spike in delays, cancellations and near-misses, when planes come within 500 feet or less of one another.
At Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said a Delta Airlines flight that had just touched down, had to quickly take-off again to avoid a United Airlines plane instructed to taxi on the same runway.
"Our information now is that they passed about 100 feet vertically from each other," said Robert Sumwalt, Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
In the northeast alone since may, there have been more than five near misses.
Thursday night at Newark's Liberty International, Rich Domich, a sports news executive, said the Continental commuter jet he was on had just landed when it experienced a close call with a 747 taking off.
"We slam on the breaks, we roll, we take a right and then there's another jar that he's applying the breaks and we look up and you just see that plane right in front of you," said Domich.
So far, Continental Express is calling it a non-incident and the FAA says it is reviewing the air traffic control tape.
The FAA admits a shortage of air traffic controllers and an increase in air travel are taxing an already strained system.
"You are flying in some of the most congested airspace we have with airports that do not have an adequate air traffic control system until we go to the next generation," said FAA administrator Marion Blakey.
But lawmakers said something needs to be done now.
New York Senator Charles Schumer said, "How could the FAA let this happen? How can the FAA say that it's the guardian of our skies when things have deteriorated so dramatically?"