United Airlines jet was seconds away from head-on collision with easyJet plane after air traffic controller’s tongue slipped at Charles de Gaulle airport
- A United jet with 73 people had to land on runway 09 in Paris
- The controller had wanted to say 09 left in the incident on 20 July last year
- An easyJet pilot preparing for takeoff saw the plane crash into them hen
- The pilot intervened and the United flight aborted the landing seconds before the crash
A United Airlines jet that landed at Charles de Gaulle airport with 73 people on board was just seconds away from a head-on collision with an easyJet Airbus after an air traffic controller slipped into his mouth, it has been revealed.
The easyJet plane was preparing to take off on the runway at Paris Airport before pilots saw the United Boeing 787 come down less than 300 feet from the ground, according to an official report from the Bureau of Inquiry and Analysis.
The near-disaster on July 20 last year occurred after the tower controller falsely told the United flight from Newark, New Jersey that it had been cleared to land on runway ’09 right’.
A United Airlines plane landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport with 73 people on board was just seconds away from a head-on collision with an easyJet Airbus (file image)
On that day, landings were made on runway 09 on the left while take-offs were made from runway 09 on the right.
But shortly before the United flight’s landing, an Air France Boeing 787 had requested to land on runway 09 on the right, the longer of the two, due to a technical problem, adding to the air traffic controller’s confusion.
The pilot asked for confirmation, but used the non-standard word ‘understand’ instead of ‘confirm’ in an English expression that the French air traffic controller did not understand.
They said: ‘Understand clearly to land 09 Right, side step for 9 Right United 57.’
The report stated that pilots should always ask for reconfirmation of an order rather than repeating what they think they heard.
The easyJet plane was preparing to take off on the runway at Paris Airport before pilots saw the United Boeing 787 approaching them (file image)
The air traffic controller did not respond and at the same time authorized the easyJet Airbus A320 bound for Malaga to depart from the same runway.
It wasn’t until the easyJet plane landed on the runway and started moving that pilots saw the incoming danger, with the Boeing less than a mile away and traveling at 160 mph.
The easyJet co-pilot intervened and said on the radio: ‘Traffic landing 09 right.’
He also told the Boeing: ‘Go right around 09! Get around it!’
The United flight came within 80 feet of the ground and was 250 feet from the end of the runway before aborting the landing and changing its path.
The air traffic controller told investigators that “she thought her tongue had slipped because she was focused on runway 09 with an Air France Boeing 787 that had just landed there,” the report said.
The United pilots were also criticized for not using clearer language in their communication with the controller.
The air traffic controller’s position, with no view of the runways, may have contributed to the error, as may the decrease in traffic due to the Covid pandemic, the researchers said.