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Charlotte Airport Needs Land for Doppler Radar With PM-Jet Crash, PM-Crash-Doppler-List

July 6, 1994

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ The Charlotte airport still needs to buy land for a radar system that detects the type of dangerous wind gusts that were blowing there before a USAir jet crash killed 37 people.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is 38th on the Federal Aviation Administration’s list to receive Doppler radar. The system is expected to be running by June 1996.

Glenn Beaupre, an FAA regional program manager in Atlanta, said the hardest part of the project is buying the land because the radar is usually placed about 10 miles from the airport,

″As soon as we have a site finalized, we have the equipment delivered,″ FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said Tuesday. ″If we had the equipment today, we don’t have a place to put it yet in Charlotte.″

The project’s main contractor, Raytheon Co., says wind shear and gust fronts have been a cause or factor in at least 18 U.S. crashes and 575 deaths since 1970.

The FAA selected 47 airports for the program based on how many days they have thunderstorms, how many passengers and flights they have and how much the airport is expected to grow in the next 20 years. The priority list is based on which airports have their sites ready, Beaupre said.

Airport manager Jerry Orr, who spent much of the day at the crash site, didn’t return telephone calls.

The Doppler system is built on top of a 99-foot tower. While current detection systems at airports monitor only the immediate area, the Doppler system has a 50-mile radius.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is trying to determine why Flight 1016 went down, is focusing on a violent thunderstorm with wind shear that buffeted the jet before Saturday’s crash in Charlotte. Twenty people survived.

Wind shear is a sudden shift in wind speed and direction caused by a downward rush of cooled air.

The control tower warned of wind shear less than two minutes before the crash, but Doppler radar might have detected the hazard sooner, Beaupre said.

The DC-9 had a wind-shear warning system, but the two pilots said they did not hear its alarm sound, investigators said Tuesday.

A spokesman for USAir, which has its largest hub at the Charlotte airport, refused to discuss the pace of the Doppler project.

FAA officials refused to discuss any aspect of Doppler that was related to the USAir crash, except to say there’s no added pressure to speed up the program.

″I haven’t heard any discussion about that at all. Maybe it’s too soon,″ Bergen said. ″Wind shear accidents are not new. There have been quite a few of them.″

Six years ago, Congress authorized $373 million to install Doppler radar at 47 storm-prone airports. The system has been installed in 10 airports, but none are operating yet. They should come on-line by the end of the year, Beaupre said.

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