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Lessons From Canary Islands and San Diego Plane Crashes

December 22, 1985

Your recent editorial "Air Traffic Program Welcome" (Dec. 15) was misinformed although well intentioned.

The Federal Aviation Administration program to expand airport radar service areas will do nothing to enhance safety and may actually increase the hazard of midair collisions.

May I point out that two of the most devastating collisions occurred when both aircraft were in contact with air traffic control. I am referring to the collision of a B-727 airliner with a small aircraft over San Diego a few years ago. Both aircraft were on instrument flight plans and under radar control from air traffic control. The Canary Islands collision is another example--both airliners were talking to air traffic control before the collision. In both accidents, the aircraft involved were under the kind of control the FAA is advocating in the radar service areas program. In neither case did air traffic control prevent a collision.

The radar service areas program will also cause a number of other problems, including:

- Increased noise from low-level flight as pilots, unwilling or unable to contact air traffic control, fly under the restricted airspace.

- Increased costs from excessive time en route while going around the airspace or through "vectoring" from air traffic control.

- Increased controller workload. The controllers cannot handle the current optional program (the radar service areas) workload. The result of the radar service areas program will be to deny access to the little guy.

I want safety as much as anyone, however, I feel that the radar service areas program is not going to help. There is a better way to do this without greatly restricting the personal freedom of general aviation pilots, and that is through education and vigilance.

Without diminishing the seriousness of the problem, I would like to point out that a near miss is really "successful avoidance of a collision." One or both pilots involved had to have been alert and doing his job to avoid a collision.

JEFF FOX

Garden Grove

Fox is an airline transport pilot and certificated flight instructor.

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