Close Calls in Connecticut Skies: NASA Data Highlights Air-Safety Problems

Feb 15, 2011

A pilot landing at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks hears a roaring noise just above his plane, but checks his traffic alert system and sees nothing in the area.

“Do you have traffic on top of us?” he asks an airport controller. The response is matter-of-fact but chilling: The plane has entered an area of “heavy military operations,” with a pair of F-15 fighter jets that departed nearby Barnes Municipal Airport coming close enough to deem the incident an “NMAC,” or near midair collision, a January 2010 report says.

A pilot heading to Sikorsky Airport in Bridgeport is forced to make a 360-degree turn to avoid colliding with another plane that comes within 400 feet. “I talked to the [local controller] later in the day and found that this was another case of New York TRACON making a late handoff to the tower,” the pilot reports in 2008. “This airport is plagued by late handoffs from New York TRACON,” as radar control facilities are called. 

A controller at Bradley’s radar facility is directing one plane through Bradley airspace while also working “several aircraft arriving to satellite airports over a control span of 100 miles.” His attempts to coordinate handing-off a plane to New York’s radar control are unsuccessful. He reports confusion in the skies, created by traffic at Bradley and arrivals and departures from three towered airports and several non-towered airports. “Handoff failures [to New York] were common in this area,” his May 2010 report says.

These are just a few of the more than 1,580 close calls and safety lapses occurring in the skies above Connecticut or on the state’s runways that have been reported by pilots and air traffic controllers in the last 10 years, according to a little-known national safety-reporting database reviewed by C-HIT.

Read the rest of the story at C-HIT, and listen for more on WNPR's Where We Live.