...Laws Not The Only Answer...

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Now, the law can only do so much to keep impaired people earthbound, as authorities in Pennsylvania found out in the now-infamous case of pilot John Salamone. Salamone, you'll remember, lost his certificate and surrendered his medical after allegedly flying erratically in Philadelphia International's busy airspace. On Tuesday, a judge said Salamone will stand trial on charges of risking a catastrophe and reckless endangerment. He won't be charged with flying drunk, though, although his blood-alcohol level was allegedly twice the legal limit for driving, because Pennsylvania has no law against flying drunk. Some officials, however, have said the case raises even bigger concerns than a lack of sobriety laws, because it revealed troubling flaws in the emergency-response system. As an airplane flew haphazardly through some of the nation's busiest airspace, the controllers tried to contact emergency officials along its path with only sparse success, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week. According to tapes of the incident, air traffic supervisor David Urban was unable to reach some agencies and was put on hold by others. The FAA contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which determined the flight was a "non-event." A police helicopter finally caught up to the plane more than three hours into the flight and followed it back to Limerick Airport, where it landed safely after one missed approach. After the incident, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) demanded a full report from the FAA on how it handled the situation. A response has been promised in April.