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Two Planes Avoid Collision At Newark Airport

July 18, 1985

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A DC-10 jet with more than 300 people aboard narrowly avoided crashing into a second plane at Newark International Airport because a pilot misunderstood the control tower, an airport official said Thursday. But both airlines blamed the tower for the close call.

″The World Airways pilot misunderstood his instructions from the control tower,″ said Glen Szymanski, quality insurance specialist at the airport control tower.

″The ground tower very readily acknowledged fault,″ said World Airways Inc. spokesman Michael Henderson.

There were no injuries in the incident, which occurred at 9:19 a.m. Thursday as World Airways Flight 17 taxied toward the gate after flying from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said Pete Nelson of the Federal Aviation Administration in New York.

At the same time, People Express Flight 227 with 42 passengers bound for Baltimore-Washington airport was rolling toward the runway, he said.

According to airline officials and a passenger on the World Airways flight, both planes were given clearance to proceed and were heading at each other at a 45-degree angle in an area between the terminals and the runways.

The pilot of the World Airways flight, which was carrying 304 pasengers, then radioed the tower that he was going to stop abruptly to avoid a collision.

″Our pilot was able to see the other aircraft coming and realized that even though he was given cross-over permission, he had to stop,″ said Henderson in a telephone interview from the company’s Oakland, Calif. headquarters.

″The tower later acknowledged that they should not have given World Airways permission to cross over″ a taxiing lane to get to the passenger terminal, Henderson added.

Russell Marchetta, a spokesman for People Express Airlines Inc., which is based in Newark, agreed generally with Henderson’s view.

″It (the tower) had cleared the planes. World was going one way; we were going another. They both got their instructions from the tower,″ he said.

But Szymanski said the tower operator gave proper instructions to all aircraft, and that the World Airways pilot misinterpreted the instructions.

According to Szymanski, the World aircraft was first told to follow another aircraft toward the terminal, but was then ordered to stop and allow the People plane to continue. But the World pilot proceeded until forced to lurch to a stop, said Szymanski.

Hal Muskat, a passenger on the World Airways flight, said the plane was rolling to the gate when it stopped suddenly, producing ″a collective ... gasp.″

The San Francisco resident said the pilot told passengers over the loudspeakers that ″without a very rapid application of the brakes, the planes would have collided.″

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