Spurred by the nearest of near-collisions, the Federal Aviation Administration made preparations yesterday for a meeting in the next 30 to 60 days of industry navigation specialists, followed by a gathering of operations supervisors at major carriers with transoceanic flights.
The FAA's call for consultations came a day after investigators disclosed that an off-course Delta Air Lines L1011 came within about 30 feet -- much closer than previously thought -- of colliding with another airliner over the North Atlantic in July.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators suggested Thursday that the FAA require pilots on transoceanic flights to verify their location, independent of automated systems, at least three times during a flight.
Anthony Broderick, FAA associate administrator for aviation standards, said the upcoming meetings could result in the carriers agreeing to change navigation procedures.
"I don't think we need a formal rule change to have mandatory procedural changes. We already require airlines to have FAA approval of their long-range navigation program, so if we change the ground rules, we can work out changes," he said.
If the agency decides to seek formal regulatory changes regarding navigation, "we would probably have much of the material drafted and out for public comment this year," Broderick said.
Changes in navigation procedures also could grow out of a broad-ranging review of pilot training launched recently by FAA Administrator T. Allan McArtor, he added.
In the July incident, the Delta cockpit crew did not have the oceanic charts needed to determine whether the plane's computerized navigation system was directing the aircraft on course, the NTSB said. The NTSB also said the crew made no attempt to verify its location, relying instead on the automated system.
U.S. airlines flying trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic routes will soon be sent a bulletin reviewing navigation procedures for flying outside radar control, the FAA said.
It will include a reconstruction of the Delta incident, with detailed notations about the navigation rules that apply in such a situation, Broderick said.