CHICAGO — The FAA is investigating how two passenger planes came dangerously close to colliding Friday afternoon at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
The Envoy Air and American Airlines planes took off from parallel runways about 12:15 p.m. Friday, the FAA said. For some reason, one of the pilots began turning left instead of flying straight.
The air traffic controller noticed the course change and calmly, but with urgency, corrected the situation.
“This is clearly a pretty serious near miss,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation expert and professor at DePaul University.
“It’s hard to tell if there was really a collision course when you have a busy airport like O’Hare," he said. "It’s really easy for something to happen and put people in harm’s way.”
Still, Schwieterman said, “It had to be terrifying for passengers because takeoff is the most dangerous part of the trip, and we had a plane that had to almost immediately turn left, putting a big tilt on the plane. Some terrifying moments on that flight.”
In a statement, American Airlines said the company and affiliate Envoy Air will cooperate with the FAA investigation.
So far, Schwieterman said, preliminary evidence suggests this is more than just a minor infraction and could result in a pilot being disciplined.