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"It sounds like the guy just got lost'

Published Dec. 5, 1990|Updated Oct. 18, 2005

How a DC-9 airliner strayed onto a fog-shrouded runway being used by another plane was the focus of an investigation that opened Tuesday into Monday's collision of two Northwest Airlines passenger jets that left eight dead and at least 21 injured. "It sounds like the guy just got lost," Barry Schiff, a veteran airline pilot and aviation safety expert, said after reviewing preliminary reports on the crash at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport.

"There are no valid systems in place to prevent this kind of accident when visibility is poor," Schiff said. "Runway incursions are becoming a big, big problem."

Meanwhile, officials said Tuesday that the captain of the DC-9 had returned to the cockpit only last week from a five-year medical leave.

Investigators were trying to determine whether it was the Northwest Airlines captain, William Lovelace, or his first officer, James F. Schifferns, was at the controls Monday when it ran into the Boeing 727 racing for takeoff.

Schifferns, who spent 20 years in the Air Force, was hired by Northwest in March, his first job in commercial aviation.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said they were looking at such factors as human error, weather and equipment as possible causes of the accident.

_ Information from the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

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