UK & World News
Three Jet 'Near Collision' Over DC Denied
US aviation officials have disputed claims that three passenger jets narrowly avoided a collision over the American capital.
Amid media reports of a "near miss" above Washington DC on Tuesday, American authorities have denied any of the commuter planes that flew too close together were ever on course to collide.
During a news conference, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said reports characterising the incident as a "near-miss" were wrong.
Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), added: "At no point were the three aircraft on a head-to-head course.
"They were not on a collision course."
The denial came after reporters from the Washington Post obtained audio recordings of air traffic controllers discussing the incident, near Washington DC's Ronald Reagan national airport, as it was taking place.
The newspaper claimed that inbound jets were queuing up to head for the airport's main runway when storms forced controllers to reverse the flow of traffic.
An official told the Post that controllers "didn't pass it on to all the people they needed to pass it on to" and, as a result, an incoming flight was flying towards two jets that had just taken off.
It has been reported that the planes, with a total of 192 passengers and crew aboard, were just "12 seconds from impact" when controllers realised the mistake.
Mr Huerta admitted the planes were too close together but insisted that at no point did collision avoidance warnings sound.
However, it is thought that an investigation found the planes had a 'vertical separation' of 800 feet and that the distance between them was 1.5 miles - putting them well within the official danger zone.
The FAA said the incident happened because of a miscommunication between a manager at Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control and two traffic management coordinators at Ronald Reagan airport.
Mr LaHood praised the air traffic controller who responded and guided the planes away from each other and has promised a full probe into the incident.
The audio recording reveals one of the pilots asking air traffic controllers: "What happened?"
Last year, two jets landed at Reagan airport with clearance because the only air traffic controller on duty was asleep.