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FAA, NTSB Probe Whether 2 Planes Were Too Close At Newark Airport

NEWARK , N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There was new information Friday night about a possible near miss at Newark Liberty International Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating a close call between a jet taking off and one that was landing.

The planes apparently were way too close for comfort on Thursday, within a half-mile, when they should have been at least two miles apart, sources told CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

Kramer asked former NTSB investigator Al Yurman just how serious the situation was.

"Yes, it's dangerous, because a move by any of the aircraft off their flight path could have ended up in a mid-air collision," Yurman said.

An Express Jet Airlines flight en route to Memphis was taking off from runway 4-R, while a United Boeing 737 from San Francisco was landing, Kramer reported.

The planes lost something called "visual separation," prompting air traffic controllers to order United Flight 1243 to change its flight pattern, telling the 737: "1243, go around. Traffic off to your left departing."

Sources told Kramer the United flight did not circle the airport or go around as ordered and instead landed. While in contact with the tower the pilot admitted it was a close call.

"We're putting the nose down and yeah he was real close. Yeah, he was real close, sir," the pilot said.

How far apart should the jets have been?

"The separation of two different type of aircraft is two miles separation," Yurman said.

Passengers, however, were taking the incident in stride.

"It seems to happen more frequently lately, but if I have to fly I'll fly. It still is supposedly the safest way to travel and I'm an optimist," said Herrat Sommerhoff of Rivervale, N.J.

"It's still pretty safe. No one got hurt," added Bailey Book of Seymour, Conn.

"That happens a lot. I like to travel. It doesn't bother me. There is risk in anything you do, taking trains, taking planes," said Stephanie Snipes of Allentown, Pa.

"It is concerning, yes. I hope they investigate it to find out the routes," added Jenny Mustazza of West New York, N.J.

There was no immediate word when the NTSB and the FAA would complete their investigations, and whether it will turn out to be pilot error or a mistake by air traffic controllers, Kramer reported.

The NTSB said a preliminary report on the incident could be issued next week.

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