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“Near miss” at Zurich airport a week after tragedy

The incident occurred an hour after runway 28 reopened Keystone

Two passenger jets have been involved in a "near miss" at Zurich airport a week after a Crossair jet crashed, killing 24 people.

The incident occurred on runway 28, the same landing strip that Crossair flight LX 3597 from Berlin to Zurich had been approaching when it came down in bad weather.

Runway 28 had only been reopened for an hour after being passed “safe” by the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) when Saturday’s “near miss” occurred.

Jean Overney, director of Switzerland’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau confirmed on Sunday that a Crossair Saab 2000, in the process of taking off for Munich, had narrowly missed a TAP Air Portugal Airbus.

He said the agency would decide on Monday whether to open an investigation into the incident.

Control tower

Andreas Schwander, spokesman for Crossair, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper that the Crossair jet, with 20 people on board, had been cleared for take-off by the airport’s control tower.

As the Saab 2000 left the tarmac, the TAP Air Portugal jet, which was heading to runway 14, crossed the safety line onto runway 28. Only the take-off speed of the Crossair jet averted a collision, he revealed.

Andreas Siegenthaler, spokesman for Zurich airport, insisted that the control tower had told the TAP Air Portugal plane not to move onto runway 28.

Following last week’s crash, both Crossair and FOCA introduced new instructions for planes landing on runway 28, which is not equipped with an Instrument Landing System. Pilots using runway 28 have to manually gauge their altitude.

Data taken from the doomed jet’s flight recorders shows that the pilots were in the process of aborting their landing attempt on runway 28 when the plane crashed into woods three kilometres short of the tarmac.

Runway 28

On Saturday FOCA announced that runway 28 must be visible from at least 4,000 metres and cloud cover must be at least 400 metres of the ground before a landing be attempted.

The move came 24 hours after Crossair issued its own instructions to pilots, setting a minimum visibility of 5,000 metres and a minimum cloud level of 500 metres.

Runway 28 was recently introduced as a late night landing area as part of an agreement between the Swiss and German governments to reduce noise pollution at Zurich airport.

Last Saturday’s crash was the second in as many years for Crossair. A Saab 340 crashed shortly after take-off from Zurich airport on January 10 2000, killing all 10 people on board.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR