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Investigation Blames Air Traffic Controller for Near-Collision

January 19, 2012

An investigation into a near mid-air collision at a Mississippi airport in 2010 blames the incident on an error by a tower air traffic controller, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released this week.

The near-collision occurred on June 19, when an air traffic controller at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport cleared two planes for takeoff at the same time from different runways with intersecting flight paths.

When the planes – a small private plane and a commercial jet – ascended to about 300 feet, they nearly collided, getting as close as 0 feet vertically and 300 feet laterally.

The private plane was a Cessna 172 carrying two passengers. The jetliner was an Embraer 145 carrying 50 passengers and 3 crew members bound for Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport. No one was injured in the incident.

The air traffic controller, Robert Beck, was “not paying attention” when the incident occurred, according to the report.

Beck was acting as an on-the-job training instructor for several other controllers before the near-collision, but was suspended and decertified after the incident.

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