FAA suspends controller for loss of separation between a Cirrus and Southwest 737

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The US FAA has suspended a controller in the Central Florida Terminal Radar Approach Control after a Southwest 737 was placed in "close proximity" to a Cirrus SR22 during an incident on 27 March.

FAA states the controller requested assistance from the Southwest aircraft to check on the Cirrus after it was out of radio contact for over an hour.

The Cirrus was on course for Kissimmee, Florida maintaining an altitude of 11,000ft (3,352m), says FAA, with air traffic controllers at the Jacksonville centre repeatedly trying to reach the aircraft without success.

Southwest Flight 821 was ten miles in trail of the Cirrus at 12,000ft, en route to Orlando, says FAA.

The controller, a supervisor, asked the Southwest crew to check the cockpit of the Cirrus. The crew agreed, was directed toward the aircraft and reported two people present in the SR22 cockpit.

Afterwards, the Southwest 737 was turned away from the Cirrus, and vectored for its arrival at Orlando International airport.

Roughly 30 seconds later the Cirrus contacted Jacksonville centre and communicated its current frequency. Both aircraft landed safely.

"Preliminary information indicates that there was a loss of required separation between the two aircraft. The FAA has suspended the air traffic controller," the agency says.

FAA states it is reviewing air traffic procedures used in the incident.

"By placing this passenger aircraft in close proximity to another plane, the air traffic controller compromised the safety of everyone involved. This incident was totally inappropriate," says FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.