Pilots and aviation executives yesterday agreed that current methods for deciding whether a runway is dangerously slippery are imprecise but disagreed over suggestions that tighter federal standards for snow and ice removal are needed.
Hearings yesterday before a National Transportation Safety Board panel also underlined differences between Canadian and U.S. techniques for measuring and responding to ice or water on runways.
The hearings were prompted by two bad-weather accidents in January: the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 after taking off from National Airport and an accident in which a World Airways DC10 skidded into Boston harbor on landing. Seventy-eight people died in the Air Florida crash; two are presumed dead in the World Airways crash.
The public "would be astounded if it was aware of the extent of the weaknesses" in current procedures for dealing with icy runways, Capt. J.J. Ruddy of the Air Line Pilots Association told the panel. He blamed "a lack of federal leadership" and called for improved procedures.
But Robert C. Davidson, speaking for the American Association of Airport Executives, argued against a larger federal role, saying that each storm and airport is unique and the Federal Aviation Administration "has comparatively little expertise on snow and ice removal."
U.S. airports currently rely heavily on radio reports from pilots who have just landed and on visual inspections by airport personnel.