MINNEAPOLIS, AUG. 18 -- Senior Federal Aviation Administration officials expressed surprise today at Northwest Airlines' refusal to make public a passenger list from Sunday's crash at the Detroit airport.

John Leyden, an FAA spokesman in Washington, said he knew of no precedent for not releasing a list. "And I've been here for over 20 years," he said.

Robert Gibbons, the airline's public relations director, repeated that Northwest would not release the list of the dead because it wants to protect family members from harassment.

The refusal irked several Detroit-area officials, including Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara, who described the stance as "a great source of irritation," the Detroit Free Press reported. Officials at General Motors Co., which lost 14 employes in the crash, also expressed irritation.

Northwest's refusal could delay public disclosure of a complete list of victims until Friday, when Wayne County Medical Examiner Werner Spitz has said he would reveal the names. Spitz said today that the list would be released when families pick up the dead.

Jerry Jones, special assistant to the FAA general counsel, said no regulation requires an airline to make public a passenger list. The FAA does require airlines to keep a passenger manifest.

He said that a decision on whether to make the list public amounts to "a policy decision" by Northwest, although presumably, if the National Transportation Safety Board or the FAA wanted the list, the airline would have to comply.

Gibbons said Northwest has no set policy on a release because the airline has not had a major air disaster in 24 years.