El Toro Controllers' Alert Prevents Midair Collision

Times Staff Writer

An Alaska Airlines jetliner swerved to miss a light plane by only 150 feet as the airliner was coming in for a landing Saturday at Long Beach Airport, according to the pilot of the jetliner.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that a collision was avoided when controllers at the Coast Terminal Radar Control facility in El Toro advised the pilot of the Seattle-to-Long Beach flight that the small plane appeared to be dangerously close and the pilot made a 30-degree turn to the left.

While the unexpected turn caused the jetliner to bank sharply, passengers had already been advised to fasten their seat belts for the imminent landing, and there were no reports of injury.

The pilot of Flight 152, who was not identified, brought the MD-80 jetliner in for a routine landing at the Long Beach facility, the FAA said. The pilot then reported the incident to the FAA.

The FAA said the unidentified light plane--probably a Cessna 150--was not equipped with a transmitting device that enables controllers to determine its altitude.

Such devices, called Mode C transponders, have been mandatory over the Los Angeles Basin since July 1. However, because of manufacturers' delays in delivering some of the devices, aircraft owners who have ordered the transponders have been given until Oct. 1 to have them installed.

The FAA rule that went into effect July 1 requires all planes operating within 30 miles of a so-called "primary airport" to be equipped with a Mode C transponder unless a waiver has been granted. Los Angeles International Airport is classified as a primary airport, and Long Beach Airport is about 15 miles south of it.

Because the light plane involved in the incident has not been identified, it is not known whether it was operating under a waiver or in violation of the rule.

Barbara Abels, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said there have been few reports of problems resulting from the waivers.

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