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NTSB Links Air Traffic Control Procedures To L.A. Collision

October 16, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A breakdown in air traffic control procedures led to an accident at Los Angeles International Airport last February in which two passenger planes collided on the ground and burned, safety officials said today.

The National Transportation Safety Board, voting unanimously, concluded that the probable cause of the Feb. 1 accident in which 35 people were killed was the failure of the air traffic control system to provide necessary backup services.

The board said this included the assignment of an assistant local controller and the failure of the air traffic officials at Los Angeles to follow directives requiring that ground controllers be given paper ″strips″ showing the position of all aircraft on the ground and approaching the airport.

The safety board said this situation and the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Service to provide adequate policy direction and oversight to local air traffic managers also helped cause the crash.

These failures, the board said, ″created an environment in the Los Angeles tower that ultimately led to the failure of the local controller to maintain an awareness of the traffic situation, culminating in the (issuing of) the appropriate clearances and (the) subsequent collision.″

In the events leading up the crash, the local controller cleared a USAir Boeing-737 with 89 passengers and five crewmembers aboard to land on a runway on which a small commuter jet was holding for takeoff.

The Skywest commuter aircraft was completely destroyed in the explosion and fire that occurred when it was struck by the USAir jet.

All 10 passengers and two crewmembers on board the Skywest plane died in the collision.

Twenty passengers and two crewmembers aboard USAir Flight 1493 also were killed. An additional USAir passenger died later.

The safety board said operating procedures at the Los Angeles air traffic control tower did not follow national requirements to provide safety ″redundancy,″ including the requirement that flight progress strips, used to monitor the progress of flights between controller positions, be processed through the ground control position.

The lack of this backup ″contributed and compounded errors by the local controller,″ the board said.

It said the controller forgot that she had placed the Skywest aircraft into position for takeoff because of her preoccupation with another airplane.

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