Long Wait for Answers on United 777 Near-Collision at SFO

Last Updated Mar 31, 2010 1:11 PM EDT

A small plane nearly collided with a United jetliner taking off from San Francisco International Airport over the weekend, federal officials said, and as difficult as it may be to believe, there may be no answers as to why for up to a year. Sound ludicrous? Perhaps, but an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board is headed to San Francisco to investigate the incident, and the board said it could take three to 12 months to complete a thorough investigation. Are our tax dollars paying for the year lease on his Edwardian flat in Noe Valley?.

Perhaps the NTSB will get some investigation help from the various news agencies following the story. Already I have learned that according to reports, the single-engine, two-seat, 64-year-old plane was registered to DHM Industries LLC in Shelton, Conn. who also have a 36-year-old Cessna.
The small light plane, an Aeronca 11AC, came within 300 feet of the Boeing 777 as it climbed in altitude Saturday morning:

The United flight had 251 passengers on board bound for Beijing. The flight continued to its destination without any further problems.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said air traffic controllers cleared the United flight for takeoff and then quickly spotted the small plane flying south. A controller radioed both pilots and the jet's traffic collision avoidance system sounded an alarm. Gregor said the controllers should have noticed the plane earlier and the FAA was going to make sure a similar situation doesn't occur again.

From another report:

ABC7 aviation consultant Ron Wilson calls what happened Saturday a very big deal and something that could have ended disastrously.

"If the two of them went down in that area just beyond the west end of the airport property, you could end up in the middle of a residential neighborhood or in the middle of a commercial district which encompasses that area and you could've had... I just don't like to think about that," said Wilson.

Gregor said that the air traffic controller who missed seeing the plane will not be terminated but instead will be retrained and a re-educated along with all of air traffic control staff.

Photo: kla4067