Author Topic: FAA backs off pilots / targets cowardly Air Traffic Controllers to avoid Ptech  (Read 1046 times)

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Offline Dig

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FAA Chief Says Controllers Were Too Slow in Alerting Military

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that federal air-traffic controllers waited nearly an hour longer than they should have to alert the military to a Northwest Airlines flight that lost radio contact and overshot its destination last month, and said the agency would retrain employers to more closely adhere to policies governing such incidents.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt characterized the lapses as an internal communication problem. An FAA spokeswoman said no disciplinary action was planned for any agency employees tied to the incident.

The failure to notify the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad, sooner was among a series of missteps by air-traffic controllers and their supervisors during the Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis-St. Paul on Oct. 21, Mr. Babbitt said at a news conference on Friday.

"We could have done better in a couple areas," he said, singling out the failure to "escalate as greatly as we could" the message to Norad that the flight had lost radio contact. "That's not acceptable for us." Mr. Babbitt said the agency planned no new rules for air-traffic controllers or pilots in response to the incident.

"We don't need new rules," he said. "What we need is more adherence" to existing rules.

The FAA suspended the licenses last month of the two veteran pilots operating the flight for Northwest, a unit of Delta Air Lines Inc. The pilots have appealed the decision.

Mr. Babbitt said that flights lose radio contact with controllers about seven times a day. But rarely do they lose contact for 77 minutes, as the Northwest flight did. A shift change contributed to the incident, he said. Air-traffic controllers going off duty failed to emphasize to those taking over their stations the status of the Northwest flight. He also said controllers should have notified superiors sooner of the problems.

Air-traffic controllers typically are supposed to notify Norad authorities after 10 minutes of lost radio contact with a given flight, Mr. Babbitt said. With Northwest, air-traffic controllers didn't notify Norad until 69 minutes into the incident -- or 59 minutes longer than they should have, he said.

The lapse is significant because in the event of a hijacking, the military would order fighters into the air to intercept an aircraft and possibly shoot it down.
—Andy Pasztor contributed to this article.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately