A Soviet airline pilot has reported that his plane nearly collided with a U.S. jet fighter over New York, and a Federal Aviation Administration official said yesterday there is no evidence the incident occurred but refused to rule it out.
The alleged near-collision occurred Sunday as an Aeroflot jetliner began descending toward John F. Kennedy International Airport, over the ocean 20 miles southeast of New York at an altitude of 5,500 feet.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said yesterday in Moscow that the Aeroflot pilot "noticed a fighter plane flying at the same altitude on a head-on course."
"The fighter then veered to the left at a high speed and passed at a distance of 50 to 100 yards from the airliner," he said. "The passengers in the airliner witnessed that very dangerous maneuver."
FAA spokesman Fred Farrar confirmed that the Soviet pilot reported a near-collision at 1:20 p.m. EST Sunday, radioing the Kennedy control tower that a "military jet" had flown within 450 feet of the airliner. The weather was clear, Farrar said.
But the FAA spokesman said that air traffic controllers at Kennedy noticed no aircraft near the Soviet jetliner on their radar screens, and that a replay of the radar tape showed the same thing.
"We're not saying there wasn't something there, we're just saying that if there was, it didn't show on the radar," said Farrar.
U.S. officials on Wednesday gave Aeroflot representatives a copy of the tape of the conversation between the Soviet pilot and the Kennedy controllers. The tape had no indications that a near-collision had actually occurred, Farrar said.
Gerasimov said U.S. officials had refused an initial request to make the recording available.