Originally created 08/15/97

Roll some FAA heads



Better late than never that the U.S. is ordering testing of airports' low-altitude warning systems following disclosure that Guam's system wasn't working when Korea Flight 801 crashed Aug.6.

It's a shame that it took a tragedy of this magnitude -- 226 passengers and crew killed -- to do what should have been done in the first place.

The jumbo jet's crew knew that the Guam airport's radar guidance beam was down for repairs, but neither pilots nor air traffic controllers had any way of knowing that the minimum safe altitude warning system was also on the blink.

That computer-based system is a key backup safeguard when the radar is out. Working properly, it gives controllers warnings when planes approach the airport on too-low a flight path. It failed for 801, says the National Transportation Safety Board, because of a software glitch.

It's appalling that the software was installed by the Federal Aviation Agency, the very agency responsible for policing air safety. Installers should have known that software development generally carries a high failure rate.

Not only should all airports' software systems be checked to ensure proper functioning, but FAA heads should roll, too.