The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revealed that a V-22 Osprey and civilian de Havilland Twin Otter parachute jump aircraft came within feet of colliding at 12,000ft altitude in controlled airspace. No date is given for the event, which is included in the agency's August Air Traffic Bulletin newsletter, which was uploaded to the FAA web site today.
The newsletter focuses on recent lapses in controller vigilance in providing traffic separation to aircraft, an issue highlighted in this week's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) final hearing on a fatal midair collision between a private aircraft and sightseeing helicopter near New York City in August 2009. Along with inherent limitations in on board see-and-avoid tactics, the NTSB also faulted an air traffic controller who had been on a non-pertinent phone call during a time period where the aircraft's pilot was expecting to receive air traffic reports.
In the newsletter, the FAA says a recent audit by the agency's Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service "indicates safety alerts and radar traffic advisories were not always issued when warranted, and proper procedures and phraseology were not used as required". The FAA notes that recent near "mid-air collisions and evasive actions taken by pilots", including the V-22 incident, "may help underscore the need for air traffic controllers to exercise extreme vigilance and thorough action when issuing safety alerts and radar traffic advisories".
The V-22 incident occurred in air route traffic control centre (ARTCC) airspace "in the vicinity" of an airport, according to the report. "A DHC6 [Twin Otter] was climbing VFR for parachute jump operations in the vicinity of an airport," reads the report.
"Radar data indicates the V-22 was approaching the [Twin Otter] climb area. The [Twin Otter] maintained an altitude of approximately 12,000ft (3,658m) for a brief period, and the V-22 approached the same area at 12,000ft," the FAA states. "The ARTCC controller issued a traffic advisory to the [Twin Otter], stating the traffic was two miles away. The [Twin Otter] pilot stated the military aircraft was about 100-150ft away at closest proximity while the V-22 pilot reported closest proximity to be approximately 20ft."
The FAA says the V-22 pilot "took action to avoid the [Twin Otter]". ARTCC controllers at the time were conducting a position relief briefing, and controller on-the-job instruction, says the agency.
Below is the newsletter