Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Skydive Tecumseh says pilot not under Federal Aviation Administration investigation after close call

TECUMSEH  —  The Federal Aviation Administration continues to investigate an incident Sunday evening over Tecumseh involving a Spirit Airlines flight and a Skydive Tecumseh plane.

Franz Gerschwiler, who operates Skydive Tecumseh, said he was told by FAA officials both by telephone and email that his pilot did nothing wrong.

“We’re squeaky clean,” he said. “The FAA took great pains to tell us we are not under investigation. My pilot is not under investigation. He did everything right.”

According to the FAA, the Airbus 319 jetliner took off from Detroit Metropolitan Airport with 126 passengers and a crew of five, bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. It was over Tecumseh at 8:22 p.m. when controllers reported another plane nearby.

“It was our plane. My pilot had visual contact the whole time,” Gerschwiler said. “There was some kind of miscommunication between the airliner and the tower.”

According to the FAA, the airline pilot confirmed his Terminal Collision Avoidance System could see the skydive plane, which was at about 12,000 feet. The jetliner was at 14,400 feet.

 According to the email from Elizabeth Cory from the FAA, “A minute later, the Spirit jet received an automated TCAS warning that required him to begin an immediate 1,600-foot descent to 12,800 feet from a previous altitude of 14,400 feet. At their closest point, the planes were about 1.6 miles apart horizontally and 400 feet vertically.”

On Tuesday, Cory said nothing has changed since Monday and the investigation will take as long as it needs to take as it is a very serious matter. She said the FAA will be thorough because planes should not be that close to each other while in the air.

“This doesn’t happen very often and we want to be certain it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

According to the Associated Press, flight attendants on the Spirit jetliner bumped their heads and luggage spilled out of overhead bins as the plane took the sudden steep dive. No passengers were injured, according to Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson.

 “Our pilots followed appropriate procedures and adjusted their flight path upon receiving an advisory of another possible aircraft in range,” Pinson told the AP in an email. “The flight continued to Dallas/Fort Worth without incident.”


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