Two airplanes departing O’Hare Airport came dangerously close to each other just after liftoff Friday afternoon, with both crews quickly taking evasive action, according to a witness and aviation officials.
They said the planes were heading east and had just lifted off from parallel runways when one of them inexplicably turned toward the other around 12:20 p.m.
“I noticed two planes taking off, and I thought . . . that’s so unusual they’re so close,” the witness, who was in a car driving near Rosemont, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The planes were gaining altitude but parallel when the aircraft to the south “banks left” so that it was headed into the path of the other plane, he said.
“The one to the north is still going straight,” though trailing the other aircraft and slightly lower, he said. Almost immediately, “The one to the south banks a hard right, and the one to the north banks a hard left . . . so they took evasive action simultaneously.”
“I thought, ‘Holy s—, I couldn’t believe I saw it,” said the witness, who took a quick photo with his phone. “It was freaky. It was freaky.”
Nobody was injured, and it wasn’t immediately clear how close the aircraft got to each other, and whether a collision would have occurred had the pilots not taken the evasive action.
One of the planes was operated by American Airlines, while the other was operated by Envoy Air, which is affiliated with American, officials said.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates U.S. airports, airlines and airspace, released a written statement that said: “The FAA is investigating a possible loss of separation between two aircraft departing from Chicago O’Hare International Airport today.
“According to preliminary information, an Embraer 145 departed from Runway 10-Left and began a left turn, rather than flying straight ahead as instructed.
“Air-traffic controllers noticed the error and immediately issued instructions for the pilot to stop climbing and to turn to avoid a potential conflict with a Boeing 737, which had just taken off from Runway 9-Right.
“The FAA is still gathering information about the incident.”
An American spokesman said, “We are aware of the issue, and both American and Envoy will cooperate with the FAA’s investigation.”