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High number of errors reported in the air traffic control tower at MSP

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Two words no one wants to hear in the same sentence: 'mistake' and 'air traffic control tower.'

The Star Tribune is going there, with a front page story that indicated that air traffic controllers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport made more mistakes than their counterparts at five of the 10 American airports with more traffic.

The paper reports that 17 errors occurred at MSP from late 2010 to early 2012. From late 2006 through late 2010, there were a total of 21 errors.

The errors are culled from reports released by the Federal Aviation Administration in response to the Star Tribune's Freedom of Information Act request.

The reasons for the mistakes are not clear. The newspaper suggested that MSP’s layout and use of two major runways made the job controlling takeoffs and landings more complex. The FAA acknowledges that intersecting or converging runways at MSP can create complications.

“It’s just a different steer to wrangle,” said Sam Tomlin, a veteran air traffic controller at MSP. “There’s a lot of stuff going on.”

Nationwide, tower errors increased 82 percent over five years. Controller mistakes typically involve planes getting too close to each other.

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