Two jets nearly collided over Belgrade

Associated Press / December 31, 2009

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BELGRADE - Two passenger jets nearly collided over Belgrade this week, Serbian air traffic authorities said yesterday.

The Directorate for Civil Aviation said an Air France Airbus A318 and an Israeli El-Al Boeing 777 came within 700 feet of each other Monday before the French airliner stopped descending under orders from Serbian air controllers.

The statement said an investigation has shown that the French jet was on an unauthorized flight course. It said the airliner was instructed to fly at 35,000 feet but was 300 feet further down toward the Israeli jet, which was flying at 34,000 feet.

Asked for its comment yesterday, Air France said only that “the pilots reacted to a proximity alert,’’ applying the necessary procedures, and “the flight continued normally.’’ A press official refused to answer questions, including the number of passengers the Airbus was carrying on its flight from Paris to Sofia, Bulgaria.

In Israel, El-Al spokesman Ran Rahav confirmed that Flight 007 from Tel Aviv to New York, carrying 120 passengers, lowered its altitude over Belgrade to avoid an Air France aircraft, which, he said, had been given mistaken instructions by an air traffic controller.

“At no time was there a danger to the passengers, the crew, or the plane,’’ Rahav said in a statement.