Saturday, July 19, 2008
FAA History Lesson -- July 19 (08)
From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...
”Jul 19, 1967: A midair collision near Hendersonville, N.C., between a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727 and a Cessna 310 killed all 82 people aboard the two aircraft. The fatalities included Secretary-designate of the Navy John T. McNaughton. The National Transportation Safety Board listed the probable cause as the Cessna's deviation from its Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) clearance. The Board could not specifically identify the reason for the Cessna’s deviation; however, it cited the "minimum control procedures” used by FAA in handling the Cessna as a contributory factor in the accident. The Board’s recommendations included improvements to the air traffic control system and more stringent requirements for IFR pilots, including an annual proficiency flight check. “
This accident was “The Big One” in the Area I worked at Atlanta Center. As you can see from the date, it was well before my time. But I worked with many that remembered that day. They passed along some wisdom that you don’t find in any book.
I’m always somewhat amused at how things are glossed over in these reports full of official-speak. The Cessna 310 made a wrong turn. He went southwest instead of northwest. Why he did it is open to question. The reason no one noticed is that Asheville Approach didn’t have any radar. It wasn’t out of service or anything -- they didn’t have any radar. And assuming Atlanta Center’s radar sites haven’t moved, nobody had a radar site that could see the area in question (immediately east of Asheville.)
82 lives snuffed out in an instant. I assure you the system was considered safe right up until that instant. “Safety was never compromised” right up until it was. Asheville did get their own radar site after this accident. Of course, it doesn’t do the controllers at Atlanta Center any good after the controllers at Asheville go home at 11 PM and don’t come back to 6:30 AM. The controllers at Atlanta Center take over the airspace on the midnight shift. Every night, the Asheville Airport goes right back to July 18, 1967. And it’s “safe”, right until the next July 19, 1967 rolls around.
You can read more about the accident at Wikipedia.
July 19, 2008