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Mid-Air Collision Narrowly Averted

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An air traffic control error almost led to a mid-air collision this week.

A Midwest Airlines plane was over Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Tuesday evening, when air traffic control in Aurora, Illinois, told the pilot to descend a few hundred feet.

But that order led the plane directly into the path of another aircraft, a United Express jet heading to O’Hare.

The planes reportedly were within 10 to 15 seconds of crashing into one another, when an on board safety system kicked in. A computerized voice in the Midwest cockpit told the pilot to immediately pull up - which he did, avoiding the potential disaster.

Midwest Spokeswoman Carol Swarnicka: “This equipment is very sophisticated and it works to avoid this kind of a situation and in essence, it really does trump whatever direction may come from air traffic control.”

An FAA official says the error occurred at the end of a very busy shift for air traffic controllers at the Chicago Center facility in Aurora.

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