Aviation expert says outdated technology could have contributed to jets coming too close

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It was a simple mistake, but it could have had disastrous results.

A close call, when one regional jet began landing as two others were taking off around the same time.

Aviation expert David Bjellos said it was a simple, but serious, mistake.

"The departure controllers failed to alert the arrival controllers that the inbound air craft, they were launching two aircraft in the opposite direction," said Bjellos.

An air-traffic controller told the landing plane to abort its arrival, so FAA acting chief Michael Huerta says the planes were never headed for a collision.

But, aside from the communication lapse, Bjellos said another contributing problem could have been our radar and flight following technology.

"The current system that we use throughout the United States is called HOST. It's the original radar system from the 1950's and 1960's," said Bjellos. "It will be replaced by a system called NextGen, the Next Generation Air Transport System."

He said that new system will be far more accurate.

"It's a brand new radar system, it's satellite based, and it's gonna refresh itself, or the controller can have a look once per second. Now it can be once every twelve seconds, " said Bjellos.

Bjellos said a modern airliner can travel a mile in twelve seconds, so the new system will virtually eliminate any time lag.

But he said the FAA system desperately needs better funding so NextGen's debut won't continue to be pushed back.

"Currently, it's supposed to take effect in 2020. It has been delayed and delayed. It could be 2030 or longer. As the air traffic increases, we are going to have nothing but further problems, such as what we saw."

Before the new radar system comes into play, Bjellos said vigilance and more training are the keys to preventing future air collisions.

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