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Thick Fog Turned Away Two Pilots Before Fatal Crash

November 08, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Shortly before a private plane mistakenly landed on a taxiway and slammed into a commercial jetliner at Tampa International Airport in Florida, two other pilots decided against landing because of poor visibili t y, government sources said Friday.

The pilot of the small Piper Apache, a veteran Eastern Airlines captain, was killed in the collision early Thursday and several of the 23 people aboard the Pan American World Airways Boeing 727 were slightly injured.

Investigators have not determined what led William S. Bain, 56, to land on the taxiway, which runs parallel to the main runway.

Visibility Below Minimum

But sources said he had been told a mile from the airport that runway visibility was well below minimum safe levels because of fog and that he likely mistook the taxiway lights for the runway lights.

"I think the question is one of prudence . . . and not necessarily a violation of any regulations," one source close to the investigation said when asked whether the pilot should have tried a landing.

Noting Bain's reputation as a prudent, veteran airline captain and "excellent pilot" who had been flying since he was 16 years old, the source added: "There are things here that are hard to fathom."

One source said that shortly before Bain's attempt two pilots decided against trying to land at the airport because of poor visibility.

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