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FAA holds on to controller's records


LOS ANGELES -- The Federal Aviation Administration has refused to turn over to investigators the medical records of an air traffic controller who directed two airliners onto the same runway at Los Angeles International Airport moments before one struck the other in a fiery crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board had requested the records pertaining to Robin Lee Wascher and other controllers as part of its continuing investigation to determine the cause of the Feb. 1 collision between a USAir Boeing 737 and a Skywest commuter plane that killed 34.

But on Feb. 22, James B. Busey, administrator of the FAA, which ZTC employs controllers at civilian facilities throughout the United States, departed from customary policy and declined to release the records.

In his letter to James Kolstad, chairman of the safety board, Mr. Busey said that while he generally agreed with the policy of sharing such information with the board, he wanted "to ensure that such records are appropriately interpreted and accorded the utmost possible protection in the interest of personal privacy. . . .

"I do not intend to make records available to the board without assurances that they will be reviewed only by qualified medical personnel and that they will not be made part of the board's private docket," Mr. Busey wrote. "At present, I understand that the board has neither qualified medical personnel on staff to review such records nor a procedure to ensure confidential treatment."

Neither Ms. Wascher nor Mr. Kolstad could be reached for comment yesterday.

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