NTSB: Controller Nearly Caused Midair Collision

By JOAN LOWY | January 20, 2012

A federal safety investigation has found that an air traffic controller with a history of disciplinary problems nearly caused a midair collision between a regional airliner and a small plane last year.

Documents released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board describe how a regional jet operated for Continental Airlines and a single-engine Cessna came within 300 feet of colliding after they were cleared to take off on intersecting runways at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi on June 19.

There were 53 people aboard the regional jet and two in the Cessna.

The documents say the airport tower controller who cleared the planes to take off within 16 seconds of each other had been disciplined repeatedly, including several suspensions, over the past several years.

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