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FAA investigating after video shows jetliner aborting landing on same runway as departing plane

The Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation after two planes from major commercial airlines appeared to nearly collide mid-air in an unnerving dash camera video taken by police in Syracuse, New York, this week. Although experts say the flights were not actually on a collision course, based on preliminary evidence, they were for a time flying in very close proximity — just 725 feet apart at their nearest point.

The incident happened at around 11:50 a.m. EDT on Monday, officials said, as the two regional jets navigated around an apparent traffic control error that initially had one cleared to depart from Syracuse Hancock International Airport at the same the other was cleared to land on the same runway. 

Audio of Air Traffic Control's communication with the pilots on both flights indicates that the controller initially gave a green light for landing to American Eagle Flight 5511, a Bombardier CRJ-700 jet operated by PSA Airlines, a regional branch of American Airlines. The controller then gave another go-ahead for departure from runway 28 — the same runway designated for the American plane — to Delta Connection 5421, another CRJ-700 operated by Endeavor Air, which is a regional branch of Delta. 

At that point, a pilot on the American flight was heard in the audio, asking, "Wait, who's cleared to take off on 28?" 

Traffic control responded to the American pilot with instructions to abort the landing and "go around," which the pilot followed. But flight radar data showed that the plane, while climbing to an altitude of around 1,825 feet, continued on a path that ultimately led it over the runway from which the Delta flight was taking off. As the Delta plane left the ground and itself climbed upward, there was a moment when it flew beneath the American plane flying 725 feet above. 

Screenshots from the North Syracuse Police Department dash camera video that appeared to show two planes headed toward collision over Syracuse Hancock International Airport on Monday, July 8, 2024. North Syracuse Police Department via CBS Mornings

The American flight turned, descending slightly, so that it was about 675 feet above the Delta plane, but, by then, also 425 feet off of its path. This may have been the time where a North Syracuse Police Department vehicle caught a glimpse of the planes on its dash camera. From a distance, it looked like they were seconds from slamming into each other.

Delta confirmed that there were 76 passengers and four crew members, including two pilots and two flight attendants, on board Flight 5421, which was headed to New York City. American said its Flight 5511, from Washington, D.C., was carrying 75 passengers and four crew members. No one was hurt in the ordeal.

The FAA said it was investigating the incident and what may have led up to it. In a statement to CBS News, Delta said, "Endeavor Air and Delta will work with aviation authorities as we always do in our shared commitment to safety above all else." American Airlines confirmed that the incident happened but declined to comment and deferred to the FAA probe.

In addition to other seemingly close calls on major runways, numerous headline-making air travel incidents that emerged in recent years — a Boeing plane emergency landing in January after losing a door plug mid-flight is just one example — have turned a renewed focus toward aircraft safety. Despite that, the FAA said that cases like the one in Syracuse on Monday are actually declining. In the first five months of 2024, the rate of serious runway incursions dropped by 68% compared with the same period in 2023, according to FAA data. 

CBS News Senior Transportation Correspondent Kris Van Cleave contributed reporting.

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