Details of News Chopper-Airliner Near Miss Emerge

HOUSTON: The pilots of a TV news helicopter and a Southwest Airlines jet that narrowly missed each other during take-off at Houston Hobby Airport both took evasive action, the Houston Chronicle reports. A news chopper and a Southwest 737 bound for Baltimore came within around 100 feet of one another at 12:25 p.m. April 28, according to the National Transportation and Safety Board. The NTSB said it was investigating the incident. Both aircraft had received clearance for take-off from different parts of the runway.

The NTSB said the helo flew into the flight path of the airliner. The pilot of Southwest Flight 1322 delayed the jet’s ascent at about 100 feet when he spotted the helo; the helicopter pilot also took a hard turn to avoid the airliner. No injuries were reported.

The news reports indicate the helo was a 1996 Bell 407 owned by St. Louis-based Helicopters, Inc., which operates a fleet of news choppers for TV stations across the country. The helo involved in the incident was operating for KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Houston.

The NTSB is investigating a similar incident involving a Southwest Airlines 737 and a small fixed-wing aircraft that narrowly avoided collision over the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif.

The deadliest U.S. runway collision occurred in February 1991 when a USAir 737 hit a Skywest Metroliner commuter plane at Los Angeles International Airport, killing 34 people, according to NTSB records.
-- Deborah D. McAdams