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Two Jumbos in Near-Miss over Atlantic

March 22, 1990

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) _ Two Boeing jumbo jets flying to the United States last month missed each other by about 220 yards just south of Iceland, the Icelandic Civil Aviation Authority said Wednesday.

One was a British Airways plane. The other was an Israeli El Al plane.

Skuli Sigurdsson, who is heading the authority’s investigation of the incident, said there were hundreds of passengers believed aboard the two 747s. But he said requests for further details had not been answered by the headquarters of the two airlines.

Both airliners were believed to be traveling at more than 500 mph. Both had flown from London’s Heathrow airport, the British plane heading for New York and the Israeli plane, which took off 19 minutes earlier, for Chicago.

They arrived at their destinations without further incident, Sigurdsson said.

In London, the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that British Airways had reported a near-miss on Feb. 15 but it said details would have to come from the Icelandic authority because it was doing the investigating.

A British Airways spokeswoman said she had not heard of any incident.

Iceland radio, which first reported the incident, and Sigurdsson both said the near-miss took place on Feb. 13. The discrepancy over the date was not immediately explained.

Responding to news inquiries, Sigurdsson said the British jumbo was flying at 33,000 feet on its correct course off the Icelandic coast, 58 miles southwest of the capital Reykjavik, when it saw the El Al plane and identified it before it was about to cross its path.

″The British plane saw the other one coming and turned away and told Icelandic ground control what had happened,″ Sigurdsson said.

He said he believed the El Al jumbo should have been more than 60 miles away to the south at that point.

He said it had flown about 80 or 90 miles north of its route when the El Al crew apparently realized they were off course.

″They were trying to get back to their correct route when they flew in front of the British plane, from northeast to southwest,″ Sigurdsson said, estimating the distance at about 220 yards.

″The El Al crew had not told the Icelandic air controllers on the ground that they were off course, as they should have done,″ the investigator said.

He said it was believed the El Al crew had problems with their aircraft’s navigation system.

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