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A close call at Reagan National Airport

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating how three commuter jets operated by US Airways avoided a midair collision near Reagan National Airport. Related article

2:00 p.m. Flight 3329 approaches D.C.

Flight 3329, en route from Portland, Maine, approaches Reagan National Airport. This flight would typically turn above Mount Vernon and fly north over the Potomac River, but an air traffic control center in Warrenton -- Potomac Tracon -- contacted the National tower to suggest that all inbound planes should approach from the north to accommodate a wind shift caused by an approaching storm.

Arriving

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

2:05 p.m. Two planes ready for departure

Flights 3071 and 3467 prepare for departure on Runway 1. Around the same time, Flight 3329 turns north of Rosslyn before planning to fly south along the river to land on the same runway.

Arriving

Departing

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

Embraer 135
37-seat capacity

U.S. Airways 3071
Departing from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio

Embraer 175

US Airways 3467
Departing from D.C. to Kansas City

2:07 p.m. Flight 3071 takes off

Flight 3071 departs National at the same time Flight 3329 begins its approach from the west.

Arriving

Departing

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

Embraer 135
37-seat capacity

U.S. Airways 3071
Departing from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio

Embraer 175

US Airways 3467
Departing from D.C. to Kansas City

2:08 p.m. Flight 3467 takes off

National's air traffic control tower tells the second plane to contact Potomac Tracon for departure. "Brickyard" is the call sign of Republic Airlines, a US Airways contractor.

Listen

Reagan National air traffic control

“Brickyard 3467, contact Potomac departure.”

Pilot, flight 3467

“Over to departure Brickyard 3467. We'll see ya.”

Arriving

Departing

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

Embraer 135
37-seat capacity

U.S. Airways 3071
Departing from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio

Embraer 175

US Airways 3467
Departing from D.C. to Kansas City

Just after 2:08 p.m. Inbound flight is diverted south

Flights 3329 and 3071 come within 1.4 miles of each other at a combined speed of 436 miles an hour, a rate that meant they were about 12 seconds apart. The National controller instructs flight 3329 to turn directly south to avoid flying toward the planes.

Listen

Air traffic control

“Brickyard 3329, turn right heading one eight zero.”

Pilot, flight 3329

“One-eighty. We were clear at the river back there, what happened?”

Arriving

Departing

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

Embraer 135
37-seat capacity

U.S. Airways 3071
Departing from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio

Embraer 175

US Airways 3467
Departing from D.C. to Kansas City

2:09 p.m. “We're trying to figure this out”

Air traffic control responds to flight 3329.

Listen

Air traffic control

“Brickyard 3329, standby. We're trying to figure this out, too, standby.”

Arriving

Departing

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

Embraer 135
37-seat capacity

U.S. Airways 3071
Departing from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio

Embraer 175

US Airways 3467
Departing from D.C. to Kansas City

2:10 p.m. “We really don't have the fuel for this”

The pilot of flight 3329 tells air traffic control that the plane needs to land soon. Air traffic control can be heard saying all departures are on hold.

Listen

Pilot, flight 3329

“OK, we really don't have the fuel for this.”

Air traffic control

“We've got a temporary stop on all departures right now. I'll get you guys out as soon as I can.”

Pilot, flight 3329

“We've gotta get on the ground here pretty quick.”

Arriving

Embraer 175
110-seat capacity

US Airways 3329
Arriving in D.C. from Portland, Maine

SOURCE: FlightAware.com, LiveATC.net, Federal Aviation Administration, staff reports. GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews, Ashley Halsey III, Gene Thorp and Karen Yourish - The Washington Post.
Published Aug. 2, 2012.