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Air traffic controller error leads small plane to fly too close to jet in LAX airspace

January 27, 2010 |  9:33 am

An error by a San Diego air traffic controller allowed a small regional plane to fly too close to a Boeing 767 as both entered Los Angeles International Airport airspace, aviation officials said today.

The American Eagle Embraer E135, which typically has less than 50 seats, was trailing the LAN Chile Boeing 767 by only 2.89 miles on Jan. 19 as both planes flew north. The Federal Aviation Administration requires five miles of tail-to-nose separation between large and small planes to protect the smaller planes from the wake turbulence.

The pilot of the Embraer had the 767 in sight at all times and remained 100 feet above the larger plane to avoid getting caught in the turbulence, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. The smaller plane was in no imminent danger, he said.

The Embraer pilot could not slow down without air traffic control instruction because it could have created a conflict with an aircraft behind him, Gregor said. As the planes neared LAX, another air traffic controller restored the five-mile distance between the planes.

-- Raja Abdulrahim

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