The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said miscommunication led to an incident on July 31, 2012 near Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA) involing three regional jet aircraft.
DCA had been landing and departing aircraft on runway 1, from the south to the north. Due to the bad weather developing, the Potomac TRACON was reversing operations at the airport to land and depart aircraft from the north to the south on runway 19.
During the switchover of operations, there was a miscommunication between a manager at the TRACON and two traffic management coordinators at the DCA tower. FAA safety officials are investigating why the miscommunication occurred.
The miscommunication led to a loss of the required separation between two regional jets (Chautauqua Airlines 3071 and Republic Airlines 3467) departing from runway 1 and a regional jet (Republic Airlines 3329) inbound for runway 19.
An air traffic controller at DCA tower immediately realized that a loss of separation was occurring and acted quickly to correct the situation. The loss of separation should not have occurred. However, at no point were the three aircraft on a head to head course.
Both departing aircraft were cleared for takeoff while Republic Airlines 3329 was inbound. At the closest proximity, Chautauqua Airlines 3071 and Republic Airlines 3329 were separated by .82 nautical miles (lateral) and 800 feet (vertical) as Chautauqua Airlines 3071 continued its climb. The closest proximity of the two Republic Airlines aircraft was 2.07 nautical miles (lateral) and 800 feet (vertical) – both aircraft were moving away from each other.
Flights involved in the incident were:
Chautauqua Airlines flight RP3071, an Embraer 135 from Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA) to Port Columbus, OH (CMH)
Republic Airlines flight RW3467, an Embraer 170 from Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA) to Kansas City, MO (MCI)
Republic Airlines flight RW3329, an Embraer 170-100SU (N807MD) from Portland, ME (PWM) to Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA)