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FAA revises JFK runway procedure after near collisions

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The Federal Aviation Administration instituted new rules for a pair of John F. Kennedy International Airport runways involved in two near-collisions less than a week apart, but a representative for the traffic controllers' union criticized the agency for waiting too late to take action.

Runways 13 Right and 22 Left, perpendicular to each other, were both being used during the near-misses July 5 and July 11, when one plane was taking off as the other was aborting a landing.

"The runways themselves do not intersect, but the flight paths of those runways intersect," said Dean Iacopelli, a JFK air traffic controller and union representative.

He said that in both cases the two planes both had their noses up, which limited the pilots' views and made the situation more tense.

"It's more or less the most critical phase of flight " when the near-misses occurred, Iacopelli said.

In both instances, air traffic controllers gave instructions to the pilots of the four planes to make sharp turns to avoid colliding with each other.

Following the incidents, the FAA is requiring a plane taking off from either 13 Right or 22 Left to wait until a plane approaching JFK from the other runway lands before starting its flight.

Iacopelli said the new rules treat the two runways as ones that intersect. He said air traffic controllers were aware of potential hazards because of the runways' flight paths, but the FAA was slow to respond.

"We've been saying for years that that is a potentially unsafe situation," he said.

An FAA spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the Port Authority claimed the FAA kept it in the dark about the near-misses.

"The Port Authority was not notified by the FAA of the incidents nor was the agency notified by the FAA of the changes in its procedures," according to the agency that oversees the three New York airports.

It called on the FAA to develop a notification system with the city's local airport operators when incidents occur that lead the FAA to change procedures that affect airport operations.

"It is simply unacceptable for the FAA to keep the local airport operator in the dark when the safety of our passengers and the efficiency of our airports are at stake," the agency said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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