Planes come within feet of collision after Paris air traffic controller error

Two planes nearly collided a year ago today at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport over an air traffic controller’s “slip of the tongue,” CNN reported Tuesday.

The controller reportedly told an incoming plane from Newark, N.J., to land on the same runway where another aircraft was taking off.

The EasyJet Airbus A320 crew questioned why a United Airlines Boeing 787 was landing on the 09R runway when all other planes were landing on the 09L runway, according to a Tuesday report from the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), obtained by CNN.


When the EasyJet Airbus flagged the error, the Boeing 787 was only 300 feet away from the 09R runway, from which the EasyJet was taking off. Crew members from the EasyJet plane, as well as the controller, directed the United Airlines plane to abort its landing with only feet to spare.

When questioned about what led to the error, the controller cited several factors, including confusion after another plane had previously requested to land on the 09R runway. She was also in the process of switching computer screens. From the one she was working on, she reportedly couldn’t see the 09 runways, as it faced away from them.


Investigators from the BEA also noted that multiple things could have been involved in causing the incident, including that the United Airlines crew didn’t use the proper terminology when confirming the runway, CNN reports. The bureau noted the controller was likely also rusty, as air traffic had slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.