Investigation into Italian gondola accident concluded

No new information technology systems are needed to increase safety on U.S. fighter jets, according to a high-level commission appointed last month in the aftermath of the deadly accident involving a Marine Corps jet and a gondola in Italy.

The commission, led by Navy Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, agreed with a Marine Corps investigation that concluded the accident resulted from errors made by the EA-6B Prowler's aircrew, according to a press statement released by DOD.

In addition to calling for better management and information sharing between U.S. and Italian military authorities, the commission recommended the creation of a "Flight Information Web Site," which, according to DOD, will provide near real-time access to flight safety information for the military's flight-training areas.

The accident, which killed 20 people, led to a high-profile trial of pilot Richard Ashby and ignited a debate on Capitol Hill about information technology failures in the jet's cockpit that many experts believe played a key role in the mishap [FCW Web Extra, March 8].

Ashby, who was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges, argued that the jet he was flying was not equipped with a heads-up display that might have given him more information about his surroundings, and that the hard-copy map he was using did not depict the gondola cable. Heads-up displays, or HUDs, provide pilots with an eye-level view of critical flight data, such as horizon location, altitude, heading and airspeed.

Defense Secretary William Cohen, who appointed the commission, accepted the recommendations.

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