FAA Probes Close Call of Spirit Jet, Small Plane

DETROIT (AP) -

The FAA said Monday it is investigating a close call between a Texas-bound Spirit Airlines flight and a skydiving plane that forced the jetliner to dive sharply, as screaming passengers feared a crash.

Flight attendants bumped their heads and luggage spilled out of overhead binds during the incident Sunday evening.

The Airbus 319 jetliner took off from Detroit Metropolitan Airport with 126 passengers, bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. It was over Tecumseh in southeastern Michigan about 8:22 p.m. when controllers reported another plane nearby, the FAA said.

“Air traffic controllers notified the Spirit pilot that a skydiving jump plane was climbing just south of the jetliner’s position,” FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said in an email. “The Spirit pilot confirmed that he could see the smaller aircraft on his Terminal Collision Avoidance System. … A minute later, the Spirit jet received an automated TCAS warning that required him to begin an immediate 1,600-foot descent to 12,800 feet from a previous altitude of 14,400 feet.”

Addressing why the two planes got dangerously close, the FAA pointed to the smaller plane’s pilot. “The skydiving plane was flying under Visual Flight Rules, under which pilots are responsible for seeing and avoiding other aircraft,” Cory said.