The string of near-misses in US airspace continues, this time involving a Southwest Airlines 737 and a fire department helicopter at Hollywood-Burbank Airport in Southern California.
Southwest Airlines Flight Aborts Landing To Avoid Hitting Helicopter In Southern California
Lately, it seems like I could publish a story a day on near-misses across the USA. While the apparent uptick in incidents may be more attributed to media frenzy than a sinister change to US aviation, the Federal Aviation Administration recently assembled a special summit in Virginia to discuss airline safety. There, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen noted:
“We expect every flight to operate as it should. And so we’ve had these events over the past few weeks. That gives us a moment to say, Let’s stop. Let’s reflect. Let’s ask ourselves the question: Are we missing anything?”
The latest incident caught my attention because it took place at my “home” airport, just 15 minutes from my home in LA. On Saturday, Mach 18, 2023, Southwest Airlines flight 353 was on approach for landing at BUR airport when Air Traffic Control noticed a Los Angeles Fire Department Bell 505 helicopter practicing takeoffs and landings…right where the Southwest flight was to land.
The Southwest flight, a Boeing 737-700 with registration N551WN, was ordered to abort landing and performed a go-around.
This is not the only recent incident at Burbank. On January 22, 2023, two aircraft were cleared to use the same runway at the same time (a Mesa Airlines CRJ900 operating for American Airlines and a SkyWest Embraer 175 operating for United Airlines). In that incident, an automatic alarm onboard the CRJ900 sounded, which may have prevented great tragedy.
Yesterday, a Southwest flight also narrowly missed (173 feet) an ambulance while taking off at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). The ambulance crossed an active runway without permission.
Should You Be Afraid To Fly?
Many people have asked me if it is still safe to fly in the US. Yes, it is. It is very safe. These near-miss stories are not comforting and in some cases harrowing, but I am hopeful the media scrutiny on this string of recent events will lead to a more deliberate and careful approach to both flying and air traffic control.
If not for the quick reaction of an air traffic controller, a Southwest Airlines 737-700 may have landed on the same runway as a helicopter practicing landings. We’ve seen a lot of near-miss incidents lately. Hopefully these events will cause greater scrutiny that will lead to an even higher degree of precaution and thereby make the skies even safer.
image: Hollywood-Burbank Airport