Pentagon orders faster action on air safety system
March 30, 1998
Web posted at: 3:18 p.m. EST (2018 GMT)
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From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on Monday he has ordered faster implementation of a program to install collision avoidance systems on certain U.S. military planes -- transport, cargo, tanker, and training aircraft.
The order follows a midair collision September 13, 1997, between a U.S. Air Force C-141, and a German military cargo plane, off the coast of Namibia.
A total of 33 people were killed -- nine U.S. military personnel and 24 Germans.
A report on the cause of the crash is due to be released on Tuesday.
Recovery teams search through wreckage from the September 13, 1997 collision
Sources tell CNN the German plane was off course, at the wrong altitude, and that a collision avoidance system would likely have prevented the crash.
"The Air Force has agreed to accelerate the program," Cohen said. "I think it's something that needs to be done as soon as it is technically feasible to do, and we have requested the Air Force to move as quickly as they can and we believed the Air Force has a program in place that will accomplish that."
The Pentagon says the plan involves spending $20 million to install the system -- which is standard on commercial airliners -- on most military planes by the year 2004.
The old program would have taken until the year 2008, and would not have covered older planes that are close to retirement, such as the type of C-141 that was involved in the collision with the German aircraft.
The Air Force will request a waiver from Congress to a law that prevents new equipment being installed on planes within five years of retirement, so that the avoidance systems can be installed on planes with as little as two years of service left.
The system, called "T-CAS" (Traffic Advisory and Collision Avoidance System) alerts pilots to a potential collision and tells both planes what to do to avoid each other.