New York Metropolitan Airspace

This report presents the results of our review of reported near mid-air collisions (NMACs) in the New York metropolitan airspace. The review was initiated in response to a June 11, 2007, letter from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding five NMACs that occurred in the New York area in May 2007. The objectives of our review were to address the following questions posed by Senator Clinton:

(1) What is the root cause of the near misses in May 2007 in the New York airspace?

(2) How is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) addressing these problems and what measures has the FAA taken to prevent repeat occurrences?

(3) Do any of the New York area airports practice a similar type of procedure that FAA ordered a halt to at the Memphis airport where FAA allowed planes to simultaneously land and depart from nearby runways that have intersecting flight paths?

Overall, we found that the five NMACs were independent, unrelated events with no obvious common root causes. Four of the five events were later determined to be no hazards; only one was classified as "potential." These NMACs were reported by commercial pilots who may have been initially "surprised" by the location of visual flight rule (VFR) aircraft in nearby airspace, but the incidents actually posed no risk to safety regardless of actions taken by the pilots. However, the four no-hazard incidents continue to be classified and counted as "near mid-air collisions," a term that we believe misrepresents the actual safety risk posed by an incident.

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