WestJet plane involved in close call in Los Angeles
A packed WestJet plane from Calgary nearly collided with another airplane that was barrelling down a Los Angeles runway at 240 kilometres per hour, officials said Friday.
The near-miss occurred Thursday afternoon on the ground at Los Angeles International Airport.
The other plane — a Northwest Airbus A320 — was taking off when the WestJet Boeing 737 veered onto its path.
The WestJet plane, carrying 136 passengers and travelling a few kilometres an hour, managed to stop just 15 metres away from the Northwest jet. No one was hurt.
Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, told the Los Angeles Times that the near-collision appears to be the result of errors made by both the WestJet pilot and the ground traffic controller. An investigation is underway.
Gregor said the WestJet pilot, who had just landed, switched radio frequencies too quickly from the air traffic controller to the ground traffic controller, and did not hear the final directions from the air traffic controller.
When the pilot radioed ground control to say the plane was heading into its gate, the ground controller cleared the pilot without checking with air traffic control, Gregor said.
Gregor said he didn't know the reasons for the errors.
This type of incident, known as a runway incursion, has occurred eight times at the Los Angeles airport so far this year, matching the total number of incidents that occurred throughout 2006.
WestJet officials declined to comment on the specifics of the incident. Airline spokeswoman Natalie Green would only say that the airline was investigating.
"WestJet's flight safety team is investigating the incident and we're working with the [U.S. Federal Aviation Administration] on that," she said Friday from the company's headquarters in Calgary.
"Safety is one of WestJet's core values and the safety of our guests and our flight crew are always top priority."
Passengers wouldn't have noticed, WestJet says
WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem said he doubts passengers noticed anything.
"The reality is, the majority of the guests wouldn't have been aware that anything had happened at all. This would have been simply an aircraft stopping short of the runway and then continuing on its course," he said.
WestJet's flight safety team, made up of more than 12 airline officials, will be talking to the WestJet crew involved in the incident to determine exactly what happened. The safety team will also examine what the Northwest crew and air controllers tell U.S. aviation regulators, Bartrem said.
He expects the investigation to take about two weeks, he said.
WestJet began flying in 1996 and operates in Canada,the United States and the Caribbean.
With files from the Associated Press