Planes come dangerously close to disaster at JFK Airport

by Pei-Sze Cheng

Air traffic controllers at Kennedy Airport have raised flags in the past about simultaneous approaches on perpendicular runways but this weekend, they say, was too close for comfort.

According to the controllers, just before 4 p.m. on Sunday December 9th, an EVA Air 747 was trying to land on one runway when the pilot realized he couldn't make a safe landing and went back in the air, what pilots call a go-around.

At the same time, an American Eagle regional jet was trying to land on a perpendicular highway, but also decided to make a go-around.

Audio transmissions between the tower and the pilots show the intensity of the moment.

Controller: "Eagle 73 a heavy 747 on the right with a missed approach. 1-3 Left.  EVA 632 climb, climb maintain 2000 feet."

EVA 632 Pilot: "Climb 2000 feet. Eva 62"

Controller: Eagle 73 you're clear to land.  You're clear to land.  Just caution wake turbulence."

American Eagle Pilot: "We're going around Eagle 53."

Controller: Eagle 73 maintain visual separation from heavy 747 caution wake turbulence. You fly runway, heading maintain 2000."

Air traffic controllers say it's the perpendicular runways that are to blame.

Barrett Byrnes of the Air Traffic Controllers Association says, "this is all about flying airplanes at each other, they don't do it anywhere else in the country essentially other than the ny area."

But the Federal Aviation Administration says it was not a near miss and that pilots have been using JFK's perpendicular runways for years.

Senator Charles Schumer reacted to Sunday's incident and a near collision at Newark Airport on Thursday.

Schumer says he will meet with the acting FAA Administrator and demand a technological upgrade.

Sen. Schumer says, "there is a comprehensive system that every expert says can greatly reduce near misses, but unfortunately NY airports are last on the list to receive it."