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Landing Jetliner, Small Plane in Near Collision on Runway

October 24, 1987

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ An American Airlines jetliner had to take off seconds after landing to avoid hitting a small airplane that pulled into its path on a runway, the airline said Friday.

Thursday night’s incident at Savannah International Airport, ″was clearly a near miss,″ Al Becker, a spokesman with American’s corporate office in Dallas, said Friday.

″I’m not sure exactly how close they came, but it apparently was pretty close.″

Thirty-five passengers and six crew members were aboard American Flight 1093 from Raleigh-Durham, N.C., to Savannah when the incident occurred about 8:45 p.m. Thursday, Becker said. No injuries were reported, and authorities have not identified the pilots involved.

Armand Estrada, air traffic manager at the Savannah airport control tower, said both the American Boeing 727 and the Cessna 402 were cleared to land at the same time on different runways.

Tower controllers instructed the Cessna pilot to stop short of the other runway, but the plane taxied into the intersection as the Boeing came in, forcing the jetliner pilot to take off again, Estrada said.

The jetliner circled before landing again. Estrada said he could not estimate how close the aircraft came to each other.

Also Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration released a tape in which an airline pilot thanks an air traffic controller for helping prevent a collision when his craft and a small plane came within 400 feet of each other Oct. 17 near John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, Calif.

The controller instructed an American Airlines pilot to stop climbing in order to miss the small aircraft. The jetliner, Flight 2041 to Oakland, was carrying 34 passengers and five crew members.

A few minutes after the American pilot took evasive action he radioed the civilian controller at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station to express his gratitude.

″Forgot to say ... thank you,″ the pilot said. ″We owe you our lives.″

The airline, citing company policy, declined to identify the pilot. The FAA refused to identify the controller.

The FAA said it played the tape to demonstrate how its air traffic control system should work.

″What’s significant is the short reaction time,″ said FAA spokeman Joe Fowler.

″He reacted in approximately two seconds, stopping the pilot’s climb and averting disaster. ... If he’d waited another two seconds, it would have meant disaster, pure and simple.″

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