Near-Collision Leads to FAA Changes : Transoceanic Flight Rules Being Altered After Delta Incident

Associated Press

The Federal Aviation Administration said today that it is working on new navigation procedures for ocean flights in the wake of a July incident in which a Delta Air Lines jetliner came within 30 feet of colliding with another jet.

Investigators say the Delta airliner, flying 60 miles off course, came much closer to colliding with another jet than was previously thought.

The Delta plane was within Canadian air traffic control when the near-collision occurred, and the Canadian Aviation Safety Board said Thursday that it wants immediate changes in that nation's airline safety rules to reduce the chance of additional incidents.

However, the FAA said today that it already has a program under way to improve navigation procedures used by American aircraft on transatlantic and transpacific routes.

It also plans to "promptly implement" the safety board's recommendation to issue an air carrier bulletin re-emphasizing the rules that apply to transoceanic flights in areas not under radar control, the agency said in a statement.

A special FAA team has nearly completed a comprehensive review of navigation procedures and training used by Delta, the agency said. As a result of that review, Delta already has initiated changes in flight procedures for transoceanic navigation, it said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that the three-member Delta crew did not have the oceanic charts needed to verify that the plane's computerized navigation system was in fact directing the aircraft on course.

Many investigators believe that Delta Flight 37, a Lockheed L-1011, flew so far off course because a wrong coordinate was punched into the plane's computerized system before the plane left London on a flight to Cincinnati.

The safety board, in a letter to the FAA, urged that the agency require pilots on transoceanic flights to verify their location, independent of the automated system, at least three times during a flight.

In its letter to the FAA, the safety board disclosed that the Delta plane and a Continental Airlines Boeing 747 bound from London to Newark, N.J., came closer to colliding than previously thought.

Witness reports had indicated previously that the two planes came within about 100 feet of each other 31,000 feet over the North Atlantic. But the safety board said a Canadian inquiry into the incident established that the separation was actually about 30 feet. The two planes carried nearly 600 people.

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