Detroit jet crash blamed on pilots, controllers, airport


WASHINGTON -- Bad decisions, bad luck and bad equipment caused December's fatal runway collision at Detroit's Metro Airport, and the airport apparently has failed to correct many of its problems, federal safety officials said yesterday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the principal blame rested with pilots of the Northwest Airlines DC-9, who got lost in fog Dec. 3 and strayed onto a fog-shrouded runway, where their plane collided with a Northwest 727 that was preparing to take off.

"We are surprised that this much could go wrong," said James Kolstad, the NTSB chairman. "There was a variety of people to blame."

Eight people died aboard the DC-9. No one aboard the 727 was injured.

The safety board placed much of the blame on a "lack of proper crew coordination," but it also cited inadequate actions by air traffic controllers; poor markings, signs and lighting on the runways; a failure by the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates airports, to find or correct those problems; and inadequate pilot training at Northwest.

Mr. Kolstad said airport officials apparently have corrected only one of the problems, closing the runway intersection through which the DC-9 mistakenly strayed.

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