plane.jpgA United Airlines plane that had just departed from San Francisco International Airport avoided colliding with a smaller plane that came in its path over the weekend, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said today.

The two planes, United flight No. 889 — a Boeing 777 — headed to Beijing and a Cessna 182, came within 300 feet vertically and 1,500 feet horizontally of each other Saturday morning, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The FAA usually keeps planes separated by at least 500 feet vertically or 1.5 miles horizontally when air traffic is busy, according to Gregor.

The planes escaped a collision but the FAA is investigating the incident and looking into why the air traffic controller didn’t notice the proximity of the planes sooner, Gregor said.

The air traffic controller had cleared the Boeing 777 for takeoff at about 11:15 a.m. just as the Cessna 182 was flying south about two miles west of SFO at 1,500 feet altitude, Gregor said.

The controller alerted both pilots to the proximity of the other aircraft, and both pilots acknowledged the other’s location and adjusted their paths, according to Gregor.

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