"Incident at Reagan National Airport"
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
August 2, 2012

Press Briefing

  • At no point were the three aircraft on a head-to-head course. They were not on a collision course.
  • What we had was a loss of separation.
  • We have separation standards to safely separate aircraft from one another.  The standard is three nautical miles (lateral) and 1,000 feet (vertical).   
  • Two departing aircraft came within these margins in relation to a plane that was landing at DCA. But, at no point were any of the planes headed directly for one another.
  • On Tuesday, July 31, shortly after 2 p.m. there was a miscommunication between a manager at the Potomac Tracon facility and two traffic management coordinators at the DCA tower.
  • The airport needed to change the direction in which planes were taking off and landing because of the bad weather developing south of Reagan National.
  • Up to this point, aircraft were departing to the north and arriving from the south.
  • In the course of changing the direction of the airport operations, the miscommunication led to a loss of separation between three regional jets.
  • In the first instance, Chautauqua Airlines 3071 (operating as US Airways Express) was taking off to the north. At the closest point, it came within .82 nautical miles laterally and 800 feet vertically of an arriving aircraft – Republic Airlines 3329 (operating as US Airways Express).
  • An air traffic controller at DCA tower immediately recognized that a loss of separation was occurring and acted quickly to correct the situation.
  • She told Republic Airlines 3329 to turn to heading 180, or in common terms, to head to the south.
  • This aircraft circled west of the airport and landed without incident.
  • The Chautauqua Airlines 3071 continued to its intended destination of Columbus, Ohio and landed without incident.
  • A second jet departing DCA, Republic 3467 (also operating as US Airways Express) came within 2.07 nautical miles and 800 feet vertically of the arriving flight.
  • It too continued to its destination of Kansas City without incident.
  • All three regional aircraft had collision avoidance technology on-board and none of the systems sounded an alarm.