FAA on NWA Flight 188: ‘We could’ve done better’

Federal Aviation Administration officials held a conference call today to describe its process for tracking airliners that are out of contact with ground controllers. In the process, officials basically confirmed almost every element of an analysis of its response that we posted here the day after the incident.

I’ve written plenty about the here.

Here’s the live blog account of today’s conference call. The participants were Randy Babbitt, the administrator of the FAA, and Hank Krakowski, the chief operating officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization:

Here’s the audio from the news conference:

  1. Listen Featured Audio

  • John P.

    It still seems like they are being evasive on the question of the fighters.

    I suspect that they don’t want to get into a discussion about where launching fighters might lead. Had the fighters been launched, at what point would they have shot down an airliner headed for a city? That might lead to passengers constantly knocking on the cabin door inquiring to make sure the pilots aren’t busy playing Tetris or updating their facebook page on their laptops.

  • Bob Collins

    Part of the problem with them having that discussion is it equates launching of the fighters with shooting down the airliner, as opposed to just assisting in getting the pilots’.; attention.

    But, yeah, there are so many obvious weaknesses in thinking about this. It’s still hard to imagine some pilot being in a position to AGREE to an order to shoot down a civilian airliner.

  • kennedy

    Sounds like the FAA is laying the blame (gently) on ground control for not notifying NORAD. Soft-pedaling the whole incident as expected.

    I am disappointed that a planned press conference contained so much chaff. Throwing out transparent justifications and attempting to redirect the conversation made them seem evasive and not very competent. Certainly does not raise my confidence in the system.

  • tiredboomer

    //It’s still hard to imagine some pilot being in a position to AGREE to an order to shoot down a civilian airliner.//

    As someone who’s never had to make a truly difficult decision, as opposed to the truly difficulty decisions of everyday life, I would expect a fighter pilot would fire only when an airliner was obviously on-target and the target was critical to the lives of others (skyscraper during the workday, nuclear power plant, extra-ordinarily large shopping mall on a busy day when all the television news crews are doing stories about the busy shopping day, etc).