Good Sense in the Wake of Tragedy : U.S safety board recommendations address turbulence problems of 757s


The National Transportation Safety Board has made sound recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration that ought to go far toward addressing longstanding concerns about the danger of wake turbulence associated with Boeing 757 jetliners. And the FAA should respond by moving with dispatch to implement them.

The FAA late last year belatedly began requiring air traffic control towers to issue turbulence alerts to pilots following the big jets on approach to airports.

The FAA had known earlier that 757 turbulence could raise havoc with planes too close behind. However, the alerts did not come until after a twin-engine jet following a 757 into John Wayne Airport crashed, killing five people.


The board, having studied the wake turbulence problem, now says that the 757 needs to be treated as a weightier aircraft than it is and that minimum distances between landing airplanes must be lengthened. A change in weight classification would mean that most smaller planes would have to stay five miles back of 757s on approach, instead of the current three miles. That unfortunately could reduce the number of flights at an airport, but ultimately there can be no compromise on safety.

The board recommended, among other things, that 757s adhere to a standard flight path angle to avoid having trailing planes thrown out of control.

The recommendations are not binding on the FAA, but they make a good deal of sense as a way to prevent accidents.