Tragedy averted! Cessna pilot's wits prevented mid-air collision with Delta B-757 over Orlando

Tragedy averted! Cessna pilot's wits prevented mid-air collision with Delta B-757 over Orlando
Pilot Malik Clarke shares a terrifying video in which the Cessna he was flying almost collided with a much larger Boeing midair (malik_dambah/Instagram/Twitter)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA: A single-engine Cessna narrowly avoided colliding with a Delta Boeing 757 passenger jet over Orlando International Airport on August 17. A video of the accident, that could have resulted in numerous fatalities, has gone viral. There was a lot of traffic in view of the busy Labor Day weekend when the smaller Cessna flew within about 500ft of the crowded jumbo jet that was departing from Orlando.

The video, shot from inside the Cessna, shows the pilot's quick response to the emergency. He took immediate, evasive action by ascending over the quickly ascending aircraft, narrowly avoiding a collision by a few feet. In a recent interview with ABC News, the pilot, Malik Clarke, described the terrifying encounter, describing how he had to take "evasive action" to avoid the much larger, crowded plane. The FAA is currently looking into the incident.


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Clarke wrote, "This happened to me and two of my friends that I was flying with two days ago (08/17/2022). Controllers in Orlando Intl MCO gave me and another Delta Airlines pilot initial headings that would make us converge after takeoff."

In a recent interview, Clarke said, "I knew that this didn't look right." He said that as a result, he immediately turned right and climbed as steeply as he could because the Boeing 757 from Delta has a much higher climb rate than the aircraft he was flying.

With just 500ft separating the two aircraft, Clarke's quick action appears to have saved all the pilots and passengers from a collision that almost certainly would have been fatal. "If I hadn’t done that evasive maneuver, it’s quite likely there would have been a midair collision," he said. According to the pilot, when the Delta plane passed right underneath his plane, he had just switched frequencies and was out of contact with air traffic control, which increased the pressure on the pilot because both planes' survival depended heavily on him.

The small aircraft, which at the time was only carrying Clarke, is seen in the video of the incident taken from the cockpit. He posted it on social media. Both the pilots looked at each other and spoke with air traffic control.


Steve Ganyard, a former State Department employee who now contributes to ABC News, was adamant that someone was to blame for the close call, but he did not say whether it was Clarke or the 757's unnamed pilots. He said, "The two aircraft got as close as 500ft vertically and 1,500ft horizontally, which means way too close. It was somebody's error to put them in the same part of the sky." A spokesman for Delta, that is probing the incident, said that nothing was more crucial than safety. 

People on Twitter have called Clarke's action "legendary." One user wrote, "LEGENDARY @malik_dambah in action!" Another tweeted, "FAA investigating after 2 planes have close call over Orlando Airport - ABC News Yard man saved 200 people lives, big up Malik Clarke."



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