Last-second nose-dive averts plane crash


A Delta Airlines pilot’s last-second nosedive prevented two planes carrying more than 100 passengers from crashing head-on east of Pittsburgh Tuesday.

A controller trainee at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin told a pilot to turn into the path of a plane and failed to see the danger in time to warn the pilots. The pilots were alerted by a cockpit collision avoidance system.

Full story here


That article makes my head hurt. I’m glad that everyone is OK.


[quote=“FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory”]when the planes passed each other, they were separated by 400 feet in one direction and three miles in the other, but Ott believes they came much closer together than three miles. FAA standards call for separation of 1,000 feet and five miles. The planes were travelling at about 400 miles per hour.

The media just doesn’t get it… Did they leave out the “three miles” part intentionally to sensationalize the story, or does the writer simply NOT understand the concept of three dimensions? :unamused:


Doesnt look like the media sensationalized this one. Taken from the above article, looks to me that they got imput from air traffic controllers.

3 miles at jet speeds and with a closure rate of head on at 35,000 feet, would be about 10 seconds or less time before impact.



The article refrences 11:33 as the incident time- the flight would appear to have been safely on the ground at that time (perhaps the FAA release gave the time in UTC and the reporter mis converted it).

From the track log of DAL 1654:

09:31AM  	40.02  	-80.14  	503  	35000
09:32AM 	40.09 	-79.98 	503 	35000
09:33AM 	40.16 	-79.82 	503 	34600 descending
09:34AM 	40.22 	-79.65 	508 	35000 climbing
09:35AM 	40.28 	-79.48 	503 	35000

Not exactly a “nose dive” (though radar could have lost mode C and reverted to assigned alt after initial departure from FL350.

After a TCAS descent - would you wait for ATC to clear you back to assigned, or return to assigned after the TCAS threat is gone?

Has anybody found the PSA flight?


True, but the fact remains that they missed by three miles rather than just 400 feet. That’s a BIG difference. Unless you read the complete article including the FAA spokeswoman’s comments about the three miles part, you are lead to believe the incident was much, much closer than it really was.



Also - why was a west bound flight assigned FL350?


Nose dive eh? Like a wings snapping off people flying to the ceiling nose dive, or a rapid decent to avert collision?
It reminds me of the “meteorologist” I heard on the radio the other day during a winter storm. " We are currently receiving light hail".


It’s not unusual to see westbound planes at odd number altitudes especially during a climb or descent that may require a level off for traffic seperation.

It could be a myraid of things, from ATC seperation purposes, to the pilot looking for smoother air. You would be amazed how 1000 feet difference in altitude can be from teeth chattering turbulance to the smoothest air one can find.

ATC may have held his climb or descent at 35K for awhile to get planes above him or below him past his flight path before approving his final altitude. Looking at the PSA flight … T/tracklog looks like the flight held at 35K until finally approved for 38K. Looks like he filed for 32K so I would bet either ride quality or headwinds had the pilot request a different altitude…



For anyone who is interested, I’ve plotted the tracked positions (data from FlightAware tracklogs) of both flights on my GPS software. Waypoint names show airline and time of plot (example: “DAL932” is the position of the Delta flight at 9:32 AM). Map scale shown at bottom right corner. The urban area in gray to the north is Pittsburgh, PA.

CLICK HERE to view image.


Picture worth a thousand words! NICELY done!



**Wow…excellent graphic depiction.



The AP is now reporting that “Close Call” not so close.

Even if they had stayed on the same altitude, they wouldnt have collided because one aircraft passed 1.88 miles behind the other, she [Elizabeth Isham Cory ]said in a statement.

Cory went on to blame the Air Traffic Union for exaggerating the incident “to get attention for political gain,”.


That’s what I was saying. When I heard the story on the radio going to work this morning, all I heard was 400 feet - nothing about 3 miles lateral seperation.

I imagine the Delta flight was cruising with autopilot on. What’s involved in the pilots regaining manual control of the aircraft again? Can simple control inputs still manipulate control surfaces in such a situation, or are there some buttons to disengage the autopilot first?


My best buddy is a controller at Chicago Center. In the last few months they have had a couple ‘deals’ as they call them, separation errors within 5 miles or 1000’. The chicago papers and news channels just love to make it look like a collision was imminent and everyone was about to die when planes are really 4.9 miles apart and separated by 900’…

The media is so frustrating with their reporting of aviation related topics.


For the controllers, the comments made by a spokesflack are just infuriating.

This is the most serious of Operational Errors, period.

These are the FAA’s definition of severity, taken from: … AP%206.htm

Sadly, I cannot duplicate the severity chart.


My math on the 6-1-4 chart that pthomas745 linked to yields the following “score”.

Vertical Separation <500’ when 1000’ required: 25 points
Horizontal Separation 3 miles when 5 miles required: 20 points
Closing Rate >700 kts: 10 points
Flight Paths crossing: 18 points
Controlled with TCAS RA (presumably): 15 points

Total: 88 points

Incident getting its own thread on Priceless.

At 88 points, it’s one point away from the top of the “Moderate” ranking, which is for 40-89 points. “Severe” is 90+. Very high pucker factor for a few people.


I was a tower guy, not a center or radar guy. Someone from that side of the street could probably explain the severity factor more clearly than I can.

But to have a spokesflack say that the only reason this exploded across the nations news networks is because of “union animus” is disgusting in the extreme.


Because I am a road warrier based at KAVP, I’m on that flight maybe once a month. Glad I was on the west coast this week.