US probes near collision of airliner, small plane

WASHINGTON, March 30 Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:41pm EDT

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) - U.S. aviation safety investigators said on Tuesday they are looking into why a commercial jetliner and a small light airplane came within about 300 feet (90 metres) of colliding over San Francisco on Saturday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it launched the investigation after a United Airlines Boeing 777 en route to Beijing flew about 300 feet under an Aeronca 11AC shortly after takeoff from San Francisco International Airport.

The NTSB said in a statement the pilots of United Airlines flight 889, which was carrying 251 passengers and 17 crew, saw the light high-wing Aeronca shortly after the 777 had taken off and was retracting its landing gear.

The air traffic controller warned there was an aircraft nearby and the pilots of the United flight leveled out to avoid the small plane, the statement said.

After the near-miss, the airplane continued to Beijing without further incident, the NTSB said. (Reporting by Deborah Charles; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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