WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Aviation Administration manager in charge of runway safety has been transferred to another job amid a rise in runway mishaps.

But the FAA said the transfer of Willie Card to supervise contract towers is a promotion.

The move was first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle today. The newspaper said runway mishaps rose 11 percent last year to 318, the fifth straight increase. The FAA confirmed the increase.

The latest problem occurred Monday in Ontario, Calif., when the pilot of a United Airlines jet on takeoff had to swerve to avoid hitting a Southwest jet that taxied into its path.

FAA spokesman Eliot Brenner said the agency is concerned about the rise in incidents but said Card's transfer ``shouldn't be mischaracterized'' as a sign of concern over his performance.

Card will take over supervision of 160 airport traffic control towers across the country that are operated by private companies on contract to the FAA rather than government personnel.

Duane Dupon, who has been working in the air traffic control automation program, will succeed him in the runway job.

Pilots and others say the agency needs to do more to achieve its goal of cutting annual runway mishaps to under 50 by 2001, a reduction of more than 80 percent, the Chronicle reported.

While actual runway accidents are rare, six accidents killed 59 people from 1990-1996, the Chronicle reported.