FILE - In this March 24, 2011 file photo, a passenger jet flies past the FAA control tower at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed nearly two years ago with a government watchdogís recommendations that air traffic controllersí work schedules be changed to combat fatigue, but did not act on them. When FAA proposed new limits on airline pilotsí work schedules to prevent fatigue last year, it ignored its own research recommending pilots be allowed to take naps during the cruise phase of flight so that they are refreshed and alert during landings. National Journal

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Three commuter jets nearly collided in midair on Tuesday at Reagan National Airport, the airport used heavily by members of Congress and other government officials, the Washington Post reported.

Air traffic controllers directed two US Airways flights to take off head-on in the direction of an airplane coming in to land. Separated by 1.4 miles and traveling at 436 mph, the planes would have collided in 12 seconds had the tower not corrected its mistake and the incoming plane not made an abrupt turn to the south, the Post reported.

The error occurred after the air traffic control tower agreed to change the landing location of several incoming planes, which had been averted because of changing winds from an approaching storm. Top personnel, however, did not notify all the necessary officials in the tower, leading to the scare.

After making a loop around the airport, the pilot, clearly frustrated, said, "We really don't have enough fuel here for this. We have to get on the ground pretty quick," according to the Post.

In total, the planes carried 192 passengers and crew members. Last year, National was the site of a now-infamous incident when the sole control supervisor on duty fell asleep on the job, failing to respond to landing requests from approaching planes.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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