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WASHINGTON — In a time of unparalleled aviation safety in the United States, reports of mistakes by air traffic controllers have nearly doubled — a seeming contradiction that puzzles safety experts.
The near collision last month of an American Airlines jet with 259 people aboard and two Air Force transport planes southeast of New York City, coupled with the rise in known errors, has raised concerns in Congress that safety may be eroding.
A US Airways plane carrying 95 people crossed paths with a small cargo plane in September, coming within 50 to 100 feet of each other while taking off from Minneapolis. A few months earlier a US Airways Airbus 319 intersected the path of another cargo plane during an aborted landing in Anchorage, Alaska.
In fact, an air traffic controller at the Ronkonkoma, N.Y., radar facility that handled the American plane says he complained about a lax atmosphere at the facility — the second busiest of its kind in the nation.
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