The Air Line Pilots Association, which has long championed an effective airborne collision avoidance system as its top safety concern, is reacting very cautiously to the surprise announcement by FAA Head J. Lynn Helms that a satisfactory system has been discovered and will be in operation by late 1984. Monitor correspondent Lucia Mouat reports that ALPA spokesman John Mazor insists that his organization needs time to study the technical details.
The FAA has long been criticized, particularly by pilots, for dragging its feet on this issue and for being too partial in the search for a solution to a ground-based system that would depend for an alert on air traffic controllers and their computer systems. Mr. Helms, former head of Piper Aircraft and a man who has spent much of his first few weeks in public office lifting proposed FAA safety regulations, said that, initially, installation of the plane- based equipment would be voluntary. That alone is expected to draw criticism. As Mr. Mazor said, "It's tough to get the maximum benefit out of any system unless i t's mandatory."