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Widow Of SkyWest First Officer Criticizes Air Control System

January 20, 1987

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A SkyWest Airlines crewman who was one of 10 people killed in a collision with a private plane thought it was dangerous to fly into the airport here, his wife said.

The widow of the Walter F. Ray Jr., 33, of Chubbuck, Idaho, also criticized the nation’s air traffic control system and blamed the government for not rehiring controllers who were fired when they went on strike in 1981.

″I am not mad at the controller on the job when my husband’s plane crashed,″ Irene Ray said. ″I am angry at the system.″

Ray was the first officer and co-pilot of the SkyWest Metroliner that collided with a private Mooney M20C single-engine plane over the Salt Lake suburb of Kearns on Thursday.

Funeral services were scheduled today for Chester Baker, 39, the pilot of the Mooney, and Paul Lietz, 54, Baker’s passenger and a part-time flight instructor.

Ray had complained to other pilots about the danger of flying into Salt Lake, Mrs. Ray told the Deseret News from Bakersfield, Calif.

″Apparently one time after he landed on the ground, following a near- mishap, he contacted the tower and chewed out the controller for misdirecting him,″ she said.

Mrs. Ray said her husband, who had 5,000 hours of flying time, told her the air traffic controllers at Salt Lake ″were not trained, inexperienced and made some serious mistakes.″

Controllers at Salt Lake International Airport would not comment on Mrs. Ray’s remarks, nor would National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Alan Pollock.

But Pollock said, ″Interviewing the next of kin of both aircraft is something that is taken into consideration when we do an investigation.″

After striking air traffic controllers were fired by President Reagan, Ray still felt safe because supervisors were handling the operations, Mrs. Ray said. ″But when the new trainees took over, two to three years ago, that’s when the trouble increased, and it has gotten worse each year.″

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