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Opposition Deputies Criticize Italy’s Runways

October 19, 1988

ROME (AP) _ Opposition deputies on Tuesday urged the improvement of equipment on Italian runways following the crash of a Uganda Airlines jetliner while trying to land at Rome’s main airport in heavy fog.

Thirty-one of 52 people aboard were killed in the disaster early Monday, which occurred when the Boeing 707 swept in low from the sea, struck two houses and trees and smashed into a field a few hundred yards from a runway which lacked sophisticated landing guidance equipment.

Investigation of the crash revolved around a number of questions raised by airport officials and pilots:

-Did the pilot miscalculate the altitude or angle of descent?

-Did the altimeter, the instrument that measures altitude, fail?

-Did the pilot misunderstand instructions from air traffic controllers or receive bad advice?

-Did a bank of fog suddenly roll across the runway, robbing the pilot’s vision?

Uganda’s transport minister arrived in Rome Tuesday to join an investigation led by the Italian Transport Ministry. A separate investigation will be conducted by Italian magistrates.

Crucial to the probe will be tapes of cockpit-tower conversations and an examination of the ″black box″ instrument recordings found by rescuers.

Stefano Rusconi, who directs the technical division of the Italian pilots’ union, said on state television that other airlines had decided to divert flights late Sunday night from the fog-bound Leonardo da Vinci airport.

He also noted that the runway the Ugandan pilot was aiming for is one of two runways at the airport without the Instrument Landing System, which gives pilots information about their altitude. Four of the main runways are equipped with the system.

Three Communist Party parliamentary deputies appealed to the transport and interior ministries for ″immediate administrative measures″ to ensure that all runways in Italy have the landing guidance euipment.

Rusconi said Italian pilots have complained frequently about Italian airports that don’t have the most up-to-date devices.

Hospitals treating survivors reported that at least two of the 21 injured victims were in serious condition. One was identified as Victoria Komukyeya, described as a Ugandan princess from Toro, a former kingdom in western Uganda.

Among those reported in good condition was 8-month-old Richard Gait and his parents, Geoffrey and Ruth, of Bath, England, who escaped from the burning plane with minor injuries.

The British Embassy in Rome identified two Britons among the dead as Manjeet Dhillon, who also held Nigerian citizenship, and Kara Ibrahim Noor Mohamed, a native of Bolton, England. Their ages were not available.

Among the dead were six Ugandan members of the flight crew, including the pilot and co-pilot.

By late Tuesday, neither the airline nor Ugandan government officials in Rome had released a list of the dead.

Update hourly