TCAS Manufacturer Sued Despite Correct Warning

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Honeywell and four other U.S. companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of an onboard Traffic Alert Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) were named last week in a suit by families of Russian victims who died in a midair collision over Germany in July 2002. The suit alleges the pilots' training and instructions to operate the system were inadequate. The official report found that if both crews had followed the TCAS instructions, they would have been safe. The TCAS advised the Russian pilots to climb while a controller told them to descend; the pilots descended and crashed into a DHL cargo plane, which was descending in response to its TCAS warning. "The Russian pilots did not have sufficiently clear instructions as to what to do when this alarm system started to give them instructions at the same time that the air traffic controller was giving them conflicting instructions," said Gustavo Fuentes, a Miami attorney who filed the six lawsuits, according to the Associated Press. "Had those instructions been clear and effective, this accident would not have happened," he said. Honeywell International said in a statement that it had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it, the AP said. "However, from everything we have learned from the authorities investigating this accident, it appears that the TCAS on both aircraft functioned according to their FAA-approved design criteria and the tragic outcome could have been avoided if the pilots of both aircraft had followed the TCAS commands," the statement said.