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Thousands of jets put on risky paths in Detroit

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Apr 30, 2006
By Alan Levin, USA TODAY

Thousands of jets landing and taking off in Detroit were assigned dangerous flight paths during at least six months in 2007 despite repeated warnings from air-traffic controllers that the operation violated federal rules, according to a newly released investigation.

Managers at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport ordered controllers to let jets take off from a runway pointing to another where aircraft were landing, the federal Office of Special Counsel said. Similar procedures have nearly led to midair collisions and were banned in a high-profile case in Memphis that year.

The problem began in May 2007 when one of the airport's six runways was closed for maintenance. To keep traffic flowing, managers sent departures from Runway 21 right while planes landed on Runway 27 left.

The Office of Special Counsel, which investigates claims from whistle-blowers, also said that Federal Aviation Administration managers told staffers of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that the operation in Detroit was safe after FAA investigators had concluded it was not.

A letter sent to Levin's office was "at a minimum disingenuous," the special counsel's investigation concluded. Seven months later, the FAA sent Levin's office another letter that corrected the first.

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"This behavior is abhorrent," said Vincent Sugent, the air-traffic controller who brought the issue to light after seeking federal whistle-blower protection. "The taxpaying, flying public should expect more."
Levin issued a statement saying, "Important questions remain about how FAA and (Detroit) officials intend to hold the appropriate people accountable for this apparently willful disingenuousness."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a letter to the special counsel's office last year that the misinformation given to Levin's office was due to a misunderstanding.

The FAA has been taking a broad look at the safety of landings and takeoffs on runways in which the flight paths could intersect and has made changes at several airports, spokeswoman Laura Brown said.
The two Detroit runways do not touch, and normally such an operation presents no danger. The problem arises when a plane has to abort a landing, which could put it on a collision course with a plane that has just taken off.

According to investigations by the special counsel and the Transportation Department's Inspector General, two planes came too close together at the airport on Oct. 17, 2007.

Sugent provided USA TODAY with air-traffic recordings of several other close calls during 2007.
Which begs the question: What's more dangerous, leaving Detroit or being in Detroit?
National airlines, RJ's, fractional, cargo, 135 and medical flights operate in and out of Detroit...will this thread be moved and split up?
So I guess departing on 4 while traffic lands 31C at MDW is dangerous. Or departing 1 while traffic lands 33 at DCA is dangerous. Or landing 27R while traffic lands 35 at PHL is dangerous...
No biggy

That runway must have been closer to the Southwest gates!

In 2007 it woulda been a right turn into the ramp from the runway.

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