Close call at Steamboat airport | AspenTimes.com
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Close call at Steamboat airport

The Associated PressAspen, CO Colorado

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. A United Express flight trying to land at Yampa Valley Regional Airport came within 300 or 400 feet of a smaller plane already on the runway before climbing away to avoid a collision, officials said Tuesday.No one was injured in the Saturday incident, and the United Express CRJ-700 landed safely a few minutes later, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said.Officials have not said how many people were on either plane. The CRJ-700 can carry 66 passengers and the smaller plane, identified as a King Air, can carry nine or 12 passengers.Ruppel said he did not see the close call but witnesses told him how close the planes got.He said air traffic controllers in Denver had cleared the smaller plane to take off because they thought the United Express plane had already landed.Ruppel said the United Express pilot radioed controllers that the plane was “on deck,” meaning it would be the next to land, but the controllers thought he meant “on the deck,” or on the ground.The United Express crew was communicating with controllers in Denver, about 100 miles southeast, because Yampa Valley does not have a control tower.When United Express crew spotted the other plane on the runway, the pilot turned abruptly to the right.”Just as we were nearing a touchdown, we suddenly banked sharply and accelerated up at what must have been full throttle,” passenger John Merrill of Hayden told the Steamboat Pilot & Today newspaper in an e-mail.”After a couple of disturbing minutes, the pilot came on and said that he suddenly saw another plane moving onto the runway, and that is why he aborted the landing so abruptly,” Merrill told the newspaper.Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said the agency will likely interview pilots and listen to radio transmissions just before the incident.”If what has been reported is true, then there will be an investigation,” Fergus said.Officials of SkyWest Airlines, which operated the United Express flight under contract with United, said they were investigating.”Our pilots demonstrate the highest level of training and awareness,” SkyWest spokeswoman Marissa Snow said.SkyWest is based in St. George, Utah. United is based in Chicago.