2 Jets Collide at Houston Airport After One Took Off Without Permission - The World News

2 Jets Collide at Houston Airport After One Took Off Without Permission

Two jets collided at an airport in Houston on Tuesday when one took off without permission as another was landing, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The collision came as aviation officials have been concerned by the regularity of near misses across the country that have been caused by understaffed air traffic control facilities and failures to install warning systems. No injuries were reported.

The safety board said in a statement on Wednesday that a twin-engine Hawker 850XP took off from William P. Hobby Airport, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Houston, as a twin-engine Cessna C510 was landing there.

An air traffic controller told the Hawker to line up and wait on the airport’s Runway 22 around 3:20 p.m., the safety board said in a statement on Wednesday. The Hawker then started to take off from Runway 22, and the jet’s wing struck the tail of the Cessna as it was landing on a nearby runway, the agency said. The pilot of the Hawker continued take off from Runway 22 after the collision before returning to the airport.

Five people were onboard the Cessna, and three people were on the Hawker, the agency said. No one was injured, the Federal Aviation Administration said, and the extent of the damage was unclear.

“We just had a midair,” the pilot of the Hawker is heard saying in an audio recording posted on LiveATC.net, which shares live and archived recordings of air traffic control radio transmissions.

Someone in the control tower responds by saying, “Say what?”

“You guys cleared somebody to take off or land, and we hit them on a departure,” the Hawker pilot says.

“You need to come back to the airport, you said, right?” an air traffic controller says.

“Yeah, immediately,” the Hawker pilot responds.

The collision prompted the F.A.A. to issue a ground stop for Hobby Airport, halting takeoffs and landings for several hours, and the airfield was shut down while debris from the planes was cleared. Some flights were diverted to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, a larger facility north of downtown Houston.

The Cessna had departed from Fulton County Airport in Atlanta, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website. It was not clear where the Hawker was headed.

The owners of the planes could not immediately be reached on Wednesday. The F.A.A. and the N.T.S.B. did not identify the people who were aboard the jets or the air traffic controllers who were on duty at the time.

The N.T.S.B. said it had sent a team to Houston on Wednesday that would investigate the collision over several days. As part of the investigation, the team planned to interview the pilots of both planes as well as air traffic control workers.

Hours after the collision, the Senate confirmed Michael G. Whitaker to lead the F.A.A., filling a position that had not been filled with a permanent official for more than 18 months.

Mr. Whitaker, who served as the F.A.A.’s deputy administrator during the Obama administration, said at a confirmation hearing this month that one of his goals would be to continue the agency’s mission of ending “close calls.”

“It’s critical that we achieve this,” he said. “It will not be accomplished overnight, but it is urgent work that must continue.”

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