Agencies Explain Loss of Separation At Reagan

 - August 6, 2012, 4:40 PM

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the media August 2 that the three US Airways-branded regional jets involved in a series of ATC losses of separation near Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) on July 31 were never in danger of actually colliding. For a short time, however, the aircraft were flying in the vicinity with less-than-standard IFR separation. The incident began during a runway change at DCA when Potomac Tracon controllers began vectoring inbound aircraft for arrivals from the north to Runway 19 rather than from the south for Runway 1. Sources say that tower controllers at Reagan were unaware of the change to the approach and launched two regional jets toward an arrival that had already been cleared for the River Visual to Runway 19. As one regional jet called inbound from the north, the tower controller at DCA realized what was happening and turned the inbound aircraft away from the departures to avoid a collision. The pilot of the inbound aircraft questioned the tower controller and told him the aircraft had insufficient fuel to fly around the area much longer. All flights eventually landed at their destination without further incident. At no time did any crew receive a traffic alert collision avoidance system (Tcas) warning. In a statement, the FAA said the closest any aircraft came to another was .82 nm laterally and 800 feet vertically. Standard separation is 1,000 feet vertically and three miles laterally. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said, "This incident represents a call to action."