WASHINGTON -- Prompted by a December plane crash in Santa Ana, Calif., the Federal Aviation Administration will begin warning jetliner pilots to approach airports at flatter angles to avoid sending killer turbulence into the path of other aircraft.
But the warnings, which the FAA will start issuing Friday, will not go as far as standard approach paths recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board. That's because of fears that mandatory changes would reduce the number of planes that airports can handle, an FAA official said.
The FAA's warning to pilots and air-traffic controllers is meant to prevent crashes like the December one that killed five people, who were in a small jet over John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif.
That crash probably was caused by the turbulence generated by a Boeing 757 that was approaching the airport a significantly steeper approach than the prescribed path into John Wayne, according to federal investigation documents.
The FAA warnings are unprecedented because they ask pilots to consider aircraft flying in their wake, while all other aviation guidelines require the pilot to watch for aircraft in front of them, said Barry Valentine, assistant administrator of the FAA.