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"Pilot's Decision Was Not Wise, Official Says"



Sunday, April 1, 2001

Pilot's Decision Was Not Wise, Official Says
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


ASPEN, Colo.,  - The lead investigator said today that weather conditions
were too poor for a landing by the charter jet that crashed on Thursday,
killing everyone on board.

"Absolutely not," said Al Dickinson, head of the National Transportation
Safety Board team examining the crash, when asked if a landing should have
been attempted.

The National Weather Service reported light snow at the time of the crash;
visibility dropped from 10 miles to less than 2 miles in about 20 minutes
just before the plane went down.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is tricky to land at even on clear days. Its
single runway is surrounded by mountains that force approaching aircraft to
make steep descents.

"It's one of the most difficult airports because of the terrain, the
mountainous surroundings," said Tim Jackson, a political lobbyist and pilot
who was in Aspen at the time of the crash. "In pilot language, it's not very
forgiving."

It was that complexity that had led the Federal Aviation Administration to
issue a notice just two days before the crash saying that planes should not
be allowed to make an instrument landing at the airport at night, said Carol
Carmody, the National Transportation Safety Board's acting chairwoman.

The Gulfstream III, with 15 passengers and 3 crew members, had approached
the airport on instruments on Thursday night when it crashed near the
runway.

Ms. Carmody said that pilots had been notified against night instrument
landings but that controllers at the Aspen airport had not been warning
incoming pilots. Ms. Carmody said she did not know why the notice had not
reached the Aspen tower personnel.

After the accident, the F.A.A. issued a new notice stating an instrument
landing would not be allowed at night at Aspen.

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