05/23/2014 07:23 EDT | Updated 07/23/2014 05:59 EDT

United Flight To Vancouver In Near Collision With Plane In Houston

They were seconds away from a potential collision, but passengers aboard two United flights leaving George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston had no idea how close the planes came to crashing into each other, local media report.

The two planes leaving the U.S., en route separately to Vancouver and Mexico City, had just taken off on May 9 when air traffic control mistakenly told one of them to turn right instead of left, according to KHOU 11 News and the Houston Chronicle. 

The near-fatal error put one aircraft right in the path of the other departing plane, just 120 metres below it. At the speed they were travelling, that put them several seconds from impact, just 1.6 kilometres from the airport, according to reports.

Air traffic control recordings catch a third-party pilot who witnessed the near collision, calling the incident "pretty gnarly." 

“You all basically crossed directly over the top of each other," KHOU quoted the pilot as saying.  

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed it is investigating the incident.

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