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FAA Probe Faults Delta, Cites 'Lapses of Discipline' in Cockpit

September 19, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration criticized Delta Air Lines on Friday, saying an inspection disclosed widespread problems with crew coordination, poor communications and "lapses of discipline" in the cockpit.

The FAA said in a report that Delta's "lack of clear-cut" management guidance to pilots was largely responsible for shortcomings found during a five-week review of the carrier's flight operations.

The investigation was prompted by widely publicized pilot mistakes this summer, including one case in which a plane narrowly avoided a collision over the Atlantic Ocean and an incident in which a jetliner came within 500 feet of ditching into the Pacific Ocean after taking off from Los Angeles.

Expresses Concern

The FAA report did not address the incidents specifically, but it expressed concern about the performance of pilots at Delta, the nation's fourth-largest airline.

Investigators "observed instances of a breakdown of communications, a lack of crew coordination and lapses of discipline in Delta's cockpit," the FAA said.

It added that while there is no evidence Delta's 6,500 pilots are on the whole unprofessional or purposefully negligent, "crew members are frequently acting as individuals rather than as a member of smoothly functioning teams."

R. W. Allen, Delta's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement that some of the FAA's findings "essentially paralleled" earlier findings by an internal airline investigation.

He said that Delta has taken actions to correct some of the problems cited by the FAA.

Safety Compliance Cited

The Atlanta-based airline noted that the FAA found the carrier in compliance with airline safety regulations and that no civil penalty was issued.

The near collision occurred July 8 over the Atlantic, when a Delta jet carrying 164 people and a Continental Airlines plane carrying 424 people reportedly came within 30 feet of each other. The Delta plane was said to be 60 miles off course.

In the West Coast incident, a captain on a Delta jetliner mistakenly turned off both engines of his plane after it left Los Angeles International Airport. The plane dropped to within 500 feet of the water before the engines were restarted.

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