Nation: Air Scares

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The Munson accident raised a different kind of question: Is the FAA system for testing private pilots stringent enough? While the report on the accident has not yet been released, federal investigators unofficially cited mistakes by Munson as the probable cause. Munson had let his $1.2 million jet settle below the proper glide path, failed to extend the wing flaps for better lift and control and then, in trying to correct his dangerously low approach, had applied engine power too slowly.

Munson had received his private-pilot's license on June 11, 1978, and then in 13 months was certified by FAA examiners as qualified to pilot multiengine planes, fly under instrument conditions and handle jets. Insisted FAA Spokesman Fred Farrar: "The implication that somehow Munson got his license and ratings in an indecent hurry just isn't valid. This isn't too fast." As a ballplayer, Munson was able to spend much more time than most other private pilots in learning to fly. He had logged 516 hr. in the air, 303 of them as pilot in command.

Daniel Graham, the Wichita examiner who certified Munson to fly the Citation, insisted that the Yankee catcher was "fully qualified." Contended FAA's Farrar: "There's no system man can devise that can guarantee that somebody won't make a mistake."

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