Investigators: Planes nearly collided near Newark

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A plane taking off and another plane landing on intersecting runways at Newark Liberty Airport nearly collided last month, according to a preliminary federal report.

The National Transportation Safety Board report classified the April 24 incident between a United flight coming from San Francisco and an ExpressJet flight bound for Memphis as a near midair collision. According to the report, the planes came within approximately 200 feet laterally. They were separated by about 400 feet vertically.

The United flight was carrying 155 passengers and six crew members. The ExpressJet flight was carrying 47 passengers and three crew members.

According to the NTSB report, an air traffic controller waited for another plane to land on the east-west runway, then cleared the ExpressJet to take off heading north. At that point, the United flight was about three miles away. By the time the ExpressJet flight started its takeoff roll, the United flight was about one mile away.

As the two planes approached each other, the United flight was ordered by the tower to abort its landing and go back up.

The ExpressJet pilot can be heard on radio telling air traffic controllers he was keeping the plane's nose down as he climbed. At one point he tells the tower the United flight came "real close" to him.

The incident occurred at the northeast corner of the airport, where two north-south runways intersect with Runway 29, an east-west runway.

Runway 29, shorter by about one-third than the two north-south runways, normally is used to provide additional capacity or offer an alternative if high winds make the other two more treacherous. It has been used more frequently since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, began a 60-day rehabilitation of one of the two north-south runways at the beginning of April.

An official with the air traffic controllers' union at Newark Liberty didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

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