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FAA investigates loss of 'standard separation' between 3 aircraft near DFW Airport

By Doug Dunbar,


Eye on Texas: Your statewide headlines for Thursday, March 23 01:59

IRVING ( – CBS News Texas has confirmed that the Federal Aviation Administration has opened an investigation into a situation involving three commercial jetliners that were in holding patterns near DFW Airport on March 16, due to inclement weather.

Preliminary information from the FAA shows the pilots of FedEx flight 3952 took corrective action after an automated alert in the cockpit from the onboard Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) alerted the pilots that UPS Flight 5510, a Boeing 747, was closer than normal required separation distances.

In responding to the alert, the FedEx pilots descended into a 1,000 foot vertical safety buffer between it and United Airlines Flight 2319, a Boeing 737. The crew of the United flight then descended in response to their own alert prompted by the FedEx descent, according to the FAA.

While it is common for aircraft to be placed in holding patterns during weather events and at times, be "stacked" at different altitudes using the same navigation fix for holding, the FAA has minimum separation requirements to insure the safety of all aircraft.

The FAA says "According to a preliminary analysis of the event, the closest proximity between the FedEx 3952 and UPS 5510 was 1.1 miles laterally and 900 feet vertically. The closest proximity between FedEx 3952 and United 2319 was 1.3 miles laterally and 1,000 feet vertically."

The agency goes on to share that the TCAS alerts on board the aircraft do not indicate an imminent collision, but are rather a predictor of "potential conflict based on current flight paths."

UPS and United Airlines said that they are referring all questions about the event to the FAA.

CBS News Texas has also reached out to FedEx seeking comment, but we have not heard back.

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