Air traffic control error nearly saw planes collide at Paris airport
The incident involved a United Airlines Boeing 787 from Newark, United States, and an EasyJet Airbus A320 preparing to take off to Malaga, Spain, according to a report by the French Investigation Authority. on Aviation Safety for Civil Aviation (BEA) published Tuesday.
At the time, the planes were taking off from runway 09R and landing on 09L, according to the report, but the controller told the United Airlines plane to land on 09R.
The crew sought to confirm the runway change using the words “understand” and “avoid for right 9”, according to the report.
However, the controller did not verify the crew’s readback and asked the EasyJet aircraft to line up for takeoff from runway 09R.
At this point, the United Airlines plane was still lined up to land on 09L, so the crew began the maneuver, but when they checked again, the plane was landing on their runway.
The EasyJet crew asked the controller why the United Airlines plane was descending to 09R and warned of a potential collision.
At this point, the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 300 feet, 1,300 meters from the end of the runway. Both the EasyJet crew and the controller asked the United Airlines crew to climb back up, and the pilots aborted their landing.
By the time the planes passed each other, they were only 300 feet apart.
The controller had no direct view of runways 09 as the equipment facing them appeared to be broken and she was working on a different screen, according to the report.
At the time of the incident, the screen facing runways 09 had been repaired and the controller was about to tip over, which “concerned” her, according to the report.
She also told investigators that she was confused by a previous request for another plane to land on runway 09R, which is longer than 09L, due to technical difficulties.
The BEA cited a number of factors that contributed to the incident, including the fact that the controller was not in practice due to the reduction in air traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Investigators also said the United Airlines crew should have used the term “confirm” instead of the term “understand.”
CNN has contacted Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for comment.