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Air traffic controllers 'sorry' over near miss

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Air traffic controllers 'sorry' over near miss
The pilot of the Russian aircraft (top) said the manouevre to avoid the aircraft on the runway was "not difficult". Screen grab: YouTube/Aerobarcelona
16:46 CEST+02:00
The captain of a Russian plane forced to abort a landing at Barcelona's airport on Saturday has said passenger safety was never threatened, but air traffic controllers have apologized after another craft crossed the runway in front of his aircraft.

“The weather was good, we could see the plane. It was not very difficult and the safety distance was not supercritical.”

This is how UTair captain Nikolai Limarev explained the near miss and his subsequent aborted landing to Russian news site Lifenews.

The incident was captured on film by an aviation enthusiast and Spanish airport operator Aena said on Monday that it would be investigating.

“We were preparing to land at a speed of 280 kilometres per hour (174 mph) when we saw the A-340 to our left. We realized that it was not going to stop, that it was continuing to advance, and we took the decision to regain altitude without waiting for instructions from the controller, who remained in silence.”

The Russian captain said that when they contacted the tower after completing the ‘go-around’ manoeuvre, El Prat air traffic control apologized for what had taken place.

In statements to the online news portal The Siberian Times, the Russian plane’s co-pilot, Kirill Kuzmin, gives a similar account of the incident, confirming that controllers had apologized after the Aerolíneas Argentinas Airbus taxied across the runway in such close proximity to the UTair plane.

“Before getting close to the runway we heard the air traffic controller's command allowing the Argentinians to cross the runway after we had landed. The Argentinians repeated the comment which meant that they heard and accepted it,” Kuzmin said. 

“But then suddenly - and without a clear reason - the Argentinians got onto the runway just as our altitude was going below 100 metres […] The air traffic controller clearly got confused. He went silent.”

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