Officials probe near collision of airliner, C-17s

WASHINGTON — Federal safety officials said Friday that they are investigating the near collision of an American Airlines jet and two military transport planes last month about 80 miles southeast of New York City, the latest in a string of close calls over the past year.

American Airlines flight 951 was en route to Sao Paulo, Brazil, about 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 when a warning system alerted pilots to an impending collision with the two U.S. Air Force C-17s, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement.

The airline pilot, responding to the collision warning, took evasive action, the board said. Alarms also went off at the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control center near Islip, Long Island, and showed up on controllers' radar screens. The controllers ordered the planes to change course, the board said.

American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the Boeing 777-200 was carrying 247 passengers and 12 crew members.

The planes were flying at an altitude of about 22,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, board spokeswoman Bridget Serchak said. The C-17s, flying in formation, appeared as a single blip on air traffic control radar screens, she said.

It's not clear yet exactly how close the airliner came to the C-17s, but it was within a mile of the transport planes, the board said.