The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has disclosed that a V-22 Osprey and a civilian de Havilland Twin Otter parachute jump aircraft came within feet of colliding at 12,000ft altitude in controlled airspace. No date is given for the event, which is included in the agency’s August Air Traffic Bulletin newsletter, uploaded to the FAA web site yesterday.
The newsletter focuses on recent lapses in controller vigilance in providing traffic separation to aircraft, an issue highlighted in this week’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) final hearing on a fatal midair collision between a private aircraft and sightseeing helicopter near New York City in August 2009.
In the newsletter, the FAA says a recent audit by the agency’s Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service “indicates safety alerts and radar traffic advisories were not always issued when warranted and proper procedures and phraseology were not used as required”. The FAA notes that recent near “mid-air collisions and evasive actions taken by pilots”, including the V-22 incident, “may help underscore the need for air traffic controllers to exercise extreme vigilance and thorough action when issuing safety alerts and radar traffic advisories”.
The V-22 incident occurred in air route traffic control centre (ARTCC) airspace “in the vicinity” of an airport, according to the report. “A DHC6 [Twin Otter] was climbing VFR for parachute jump operations in the vicinity of an airport,” reads the report.
The Twin Otter pilot stated the military aircraft was about 100-150ft away at closest proximity while the V-22 pilot reported closest proximity to be approximately 20ft.
The V-22 osprey is a tilt rotor vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL), multi-mission air-craft developed to fill multi-Service combat operational requirements. The V-22 uses many unique items to achieve its configuration and capability. The airframe incorporates new materials and structural designs. Advanced avionics provide mission enhancement while new wiring technologies increase reliability and reduce weight.
The Twin Otter on the other hand, remains popular for its rugged construction and useful STOL performance. The Twin Otter has been popular with commercial skydiving operations. It is able to carry up to 22 skydivers to over 13,500 ft.; presently, the Twin Otter is used in skydiving operations in many countries. The United States Air Force operates three Twin Otters for the United States Air Force Academy’s skydiving team.