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Qantas Planes In Near Miss Over Australian City
An investigation is under way in Australia after two Qantas passenger jets were reportedly put on a collision course, coming just 800ft of each other.
The near miss happened last week as the passenger planes were flying over Darwin in the far north of the country.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said it was investigating the incident in which a QantasLink Boeing 717 coming in to land flew close to a Melbourne-bound Qantas Boeing 737 which had just taken off.
"A Boeing 717 inbound to Darwin was cleared to descend through the level of an outbound Boeing 737 near Darwin," the ATSB said.
Citing an incident report, Sydney's Daily Telegraph said an air-traffic controller at Darwin airport put the Boeing 717 carrying 115 passengers on a collision course with the Boeing 737 carrying 155 passengers.
Collision avoidance systems on the Boeing 717 detected the error and warned the pilots there was an aircraft just 800ft (250 metres) below them.
"It passed directly below us. I saw the traffic collision avoidance system display traffic 800ft below," Captain Robert Flipo wrote in the incident report.
But he added: "It must have been closer than that.
"We had been given a series of nonsensical clearances both lateral and vertical," Mr Flipo wrote, adding he asked several times about how to approach but received a "non-conclusive response".
Darwin Airport shares military and public facilities, and air-traffic control is provided by the Royal Australian Air Force.
A defence spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald: "An initial Defence investigation indicates that an air traffic controller inadvertently directed an arriving and a departing aircraft on a path that would have taken the aircraft through the same height.
"The aircraft safety systems identified the potential conflict and the air traffic controller immediately issued new instructions to separate the aircraft.
"In accordance with standard procedures, the air traffic controller concerned has been temporarily suspended from duty pending the results of (a more detailed) investigation."
Qantas said it was unable to comment due to the ongoing investigation.