Two FedEx Planes Almost Collided

Two FedEx jets got too close to each other on takeoff from Memphis Airport (MEM) because of confusion over flight numbers for the planes.

On Feb. 21, two aircraft flying in the same direction on takeoff came within 200 feet vertically and 3/4 of a mile horizontally to each other, an FAA spokesperson said. Separation should have been at least 1,000 feet vertically and 3 miles horizontally.

The incident began with the pilot of one plane getting on the wrong radio frequency “and accepting instructions intended for another aircraft. The flights had similar numbers – FDX527 (an MD-10 to Boston) and FDX257 (a DC-10 bound for Aguadilla, Puerto Rico (BQN).

The incident, which the FAA classified as serious air traffic control error, remained under investigation.

The air traffic controllers union blamed the incident and other recent mistakes by controllers at Memphis on short staffing and forced overtime.

By Szafi 

2 Responses to “Two FedEx Planes Almost Collided”

  1. 1 R May 4, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    It would be nice to see someone spin these stories indicating the first link in the chain leading up to this incident possible major accident.

    The first link leading to this is the airlines generating similar flight numbers with flights departing literally within seconds of each other, and in this instance at the same time, and at the same airport.

    If the airline is in control of the company as it is required by FAR’s to be, then it should be able to control the flight numbers and ensure that similar flight numbers don’t exist for flights departing/arriving the same airport about the same time.

    Remove “That” link, and the chain won’t even develop.

    FedEx is not alone in this problem with similar flight numbers. Unfortunately, all the airlines do it. So, does the FAA need to come in and mandate the change in the interest of safety? When the potential exists for two large transport category airplanes loaded with people and fuel to collide in flight, it would be a prudent choice for the airlines themselves to make the change without having to be told so. However, the majority of safety related things that airlines do are due to the fact that they are mandated by the FAR’s, hence the FAA. Therefore the answer is yes, that the FAA should put something in place requiring this change. The reality is that the accident will most likely have to happen first, and then the watch dogs of aviation (NTSB) will no doubt spend countless hours to successfully implement this change.

  2. 2 szafi May 6, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Hi R,

    you are right, this is a very stupid habbit from safety aspect. On the other hand of course it has a logic. But you know what? You drew my attention to a good point. I’ll talk to a network planning expert today and i’ll ask his opinion about it.

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