NTSB Investigating Near Collision Of Southwest 737 And News Helicopter <


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NTSB Investigating Near Collision Of Southwest 737 And News Helicopter 

By Bill Goldston (update May 10, 2010)

May 4, 2010 - The NTSB has launched an investigation into the near collision of a Southwest Airlines jetliner and a news helicopter over a runway at Houston's Hobby Airport last week. 

At about 12:25 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, April 28, a Southwest Airlines 737, flight 1322 (N242WN) and a Bell 207 news gathering helicopter (N6YJ), came within an estimated 125 feet vertically and 100 feet laterally from each other as both were departing the airport.

The Baltimore-bound 737 with 135 passengers and a crew of five had been cleared to depart from runway 12R. At about the same time the helicopter was cleared to depart from another part of the airport.


The near-collision occurred as the helicopter converged into the flight path of the 737 shortly after the jetliner lifted off from the runway. Both crews took evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding. NTSB investigator Betty Koschig, an air traffic control specialist based in Washington, is traveling to Houston to begin the investigation. This is the second runway safety incident that the NTSB has investigated in the last two weeks. On April 19, a 737 and a small private plane came within about 200 feet of colliding over the airport in Burbank, Calif.

Update May 10, 2010 - Below is a preliminary report from the NTSB.

Southwest Airlines (SWA) flight 1322, B737, registration N242WN, and (News) SKY 2, a Bell 407 helicopter, registration N6YJ, came within 100 feet vertical and 125 feet lateral separation at 200 feet over runway 12R at the William P Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas. SWA1322 was departing HOU enroute to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport during day visual meteorological conditions.

According to the SWA1322 pilot: "We were cleared for takeoff on runway 12R. I heard a helicopter also being cleared for takeoff somewhere else on the airport. At about the V1 call I saw the helicopter at my right one-a-clock as he flew southeast down taxiway November at about 50' off the ground. His flight path was in the same direction as ours but offset to the right several hundred feet. It appeared we would fly past him soon after rotation.


?However, just as I began to rotate, he started a left turn into our flight path. To avoid hitting him, I made a slow rotation and after liftoff kept us airborne just a few feet off the ground so that we would fly under him. This was my only option to avoid hitting him. Just before we flew under him he saw us and made a sharp hard turn back to the right. This turn prevented him from flying directly over us.

?I estimate we missed him by about 50' vertically and 100-200' horizontally. Listening to the conversation between him and the tower controller after we passed him it sounded like there was confusion between them about what direction he was supposed to head after his takeoff."

According to the SWA1322 First Officer: "I was the FO and [pilot monitoring]. We were cleared for takeoff on 12R. Approaching V1 we saw a helo taking off south of 12R and flying SE (parallel with the runway). During our rotation, the helo started to turn left and towards our flight path. The PF adjusted pitch to keep vertical spacing. The helo abruptly turned back to the right and passed high and off our right wing. I notified tower that the helo attempted to turn into us. The PF adjusted back to the normal profile after clearing the conflict and the remainder of the flight was normal.

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