Judge Ponders Control At Uncontrolled Airport

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A U.S. District Court Judge in Florida is now pondering whether negligence by FAA air traffic controllers contributed to the midair collision of two planes in 1999 at Deland Airport, an uncontrolled facility about 14 miles southwest of Daytona Beach. Judge John Antoon didn't render a decision after the civil trial against the FAA by the family of one of the four people who died ended last week. The family of Todd Landry, 22, of Meraux, La., claims controllers should have maintained separation between his aircraft and another, both of which were doing touch and goes at Deland. Landry and his student Eliza Lewis died when their Piper Cadet collided with a Seminole flown by Nicholas Simatos and Abdulla Alhaz, who also died. The NTSB report blamed the pilots for the accident but Landry's family's lawyer Robert Spohrer said they were not entirely to blame. "The fact is, there was a chain of events here," he said. FAA lawyer Henry Goddard didn't disagree. "Frankly, it was a breakdown in the way the system is supposed to work," Goddard said. But he also said it wasn't entirely the fault of the controllers. He said it's impossible for them to know how pilots will act around an airport that doesn't have a control tower. The tower issue will be solved next year when one is built at Deland, which is busy by anyone's standard. There were more than 119,000 movements there last year and that's expected to go to 184,000 in ten years.