May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Arrivals on one of Newark Liberty International Airport’s runways are being restricted after an incident last month in which two planes came within hundreds of feet of colliding.
The limitations on landings on the westbound runway may worsen delays at what is already the most congested airport in the U.S., according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. The move may also compound bottlenecks stemming from a project to resurface one of the airport’s three runways.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the April 24 near-collision and “has taken steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future,” it said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Two airliners, one landing and another taking off from an intersecting runway, came within several hundred feet of a collision, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
A controller at Newark’s tower saw the two planes heading toward each other and instructed the pilots of a Boeing Co. 737-800 arriving from San Francisco to abort its landing and climb.
The controller also warned a pilot on an Embraer SA ERJ145 regional jet, taking off to the northeast on a flight to Memphis, Tennessee, about the other airliner. The pilot responded that he was going to keep the plane’s nose down so he would fly beneath the larger plane, according to the NTSB. The agency didn’t identify the carriers.
The aircraft missed each other by less than 160 feet (49 meters) vertically and 400 feet laterally, according to the NTSB. There was no damage to the planes.
The FAA permits operations on intersecting runways if controllers clear departures in the gaps between arrivals. Pilots in the departing plane at Newark delayed their takeoff after receiving air-traffic approval, which put them in the path of the arrival, according to the NTSB.
The FAA statement didn’t say whether the change in procedure would be permanent or how many flights it may affect.
A third runway at the airport that wasn’t involved in the incident has been closed for repaving since April. The FAA’s latest action reduces the options for moving flights during the construction project.
The change in procedure halts westbound arrivals on a runway that crosses the other two. Landings to the east on that runway will still be permitted. Wind direction and weather typically determine which runways are used.
Newark had the highest percentage of flights delayed by at least 15 minutes in 2013 and 2012 of any U.S. airport, according to the Department of Transportation’s statistics bureau. In 2013, 30 percent of arrivals to Newark were late, according to the data.
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