Nashville Crash Highlights Aviation Security Loophole - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Nashville Crash Highlights Aviation Security Loophole

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Tuesday the NTSB officials released its preliminary findings revealing the pilot did not communicate with air traffic controllers or file a flight plan into the United States.

Investigators said he took off from Windsor, Ontario—just outside Detroit—bound for Pelee Island, but actually flew across the border more than 400 miles south before trying to land at Nashville International Airport.

They still aren't exactly sure when the crashed happened, but estimate it sometime between when airport personnel checked the runway at 2 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. when a taxing airplane reported seeing debris on runway 2C.

That means even after crashing in dense fog, the burned wreckage went undetected for nearly seven hours.

It may seem like a huge security breach, but experts said it's actually common.

"In fact on any given day most of the aviation in the United States of America is not being tracked by air traffic control," said former Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo.

Air traffic controllers are on skeleton crews overnight and pilots of small planes can choose not to radio the tower.

"If you choose to be off-grid and not tell anyone where you are it's actually quite easy to fly undetected through the United States," Schiavo said.

FAA officials confirmed Tuesday staffing in the tower Nashville International that morning is part of the investigation, but didn't say how the sequestration cuts could have impacted the number of employees.

NTSB officials also are considering dense fog that plagued Middle Tennessee late Monday into Tuesday morning.

In 2010, a pilot radioed air traffic controllers in Austin, Texas just before flying a small plane into an IRS building killing himself, an employee and injuring more than a dozen people. Authorities later said it was targeted.

Since Homeland Security officials focus mostly on large, commercial flights it could be up the airports themselves to make changes or continue not knowing who's flying, Schiavo said.

"A lot of people find it surprising that it's so easy to move through the airspace in the United States literally undetected," she said.

Homeland Security officials so far haven't responded to our questions about the case.

The pilot, Michael Callan, could have a lengthy criminal history including a number of violent bank robberies, as well as being involved in a large child porn case.

The NTSB's full report could take up to a year.

Facebook: NC5_AdamGhassemi
Twitter: @NC5_AGhassemi

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