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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Swiss angst over air crash blame
Relatives of the dead visit the crash site in southern Germany
Switzerland could face compensation claims, says Swissinfo
Monday night's mid-air collision of two jets in Swiss-controlled airspace has left the Swiss press worrying about who may be to blame - Zurich air traffic controllers, or the Russian pilot?

Skyguide control
Screen trouble: Skyguide's radar may be defective
Some papers say the Swiss air traffic control company, Skyguide, has many questions to answer.

The Zurich tabloid Blick asks whether Swiss air safety has become "sloppy"?

"Things get worse and worse for Skyguide, as the latest report by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has found a series of shortcomings in its radar system...

"The blunt essence is that Skyguide's radar equipment can show planes in the wrong position and screens from which planes suddenly vanish. Has our air safety become rather sloppy?"

Computer error theory

It warns that the "objective inquiry" German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has promised the Russians is unlikely to be good news for Skyguide either.


Contradictory staff statements and new information about safety deficiencies will increase the pressure on Skyguide.

Blick, Zurich
"Contradictory statements by employees and new technical information about safety deficiencies will increase the pressure on Skyguide more than ever," it says.

For Blick, the crucial question remains "Why an experienced air traffic controller instructed the Russian pilot Alexander Gross to change course only 50 seconds before the collision, when he had had the plane on his screen for five minutes?"

Elsewhere in the paper, journalist Werner Bucher agrees that the consensus view points the finger of blame at the air traffic controller, but also asks whether computer error might have played a part.

"Why did the safety system on the Boeing order it to dive not to climb... and was the system on the Russian plane even switched on?" he asks.

Uncertainty reigns

The Berner Zeitung agrees that the exact causes of the tragic air collision over Lake Constance are uncertain.

And the Aargauer Zeitung asks whether "human error or a combination of unfortunate coincidences... led to a normal, routine, 'everything is under control' situation turning in a matter of minutes into absolute catastrophe.

"How could two modern planes piloted by experienced crews and guided by an air traffic controller with the best training collide 11,000 metres above Lake Constance?

"One thing is certain: the sophisticated flight safety system and the interaction of people and technology failed on this occasion. This, and the high cost of near-collisions in Swiss air space, obliges the authorities to reconsider the subject of flight safety."

Long inquiry

The Neue Zuercher Zeitung takes a measured approach, saying "As usual in such cases, we shall have to await the investigation of the flight box recorder by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau."

The black box data will perhaps show that Skyguide is not solely responsible for the accident

Le Temps, Geneva

Le Temps of Geneva holds out hope that Skyguide might not be wholly to blame in this "chain of extraordinary events that only a long inquiry will be able to unravel".

It notes the failure of the Russian pilot to respond immediately to an instruction to dive.

"This time lapse, crucial at such speeds, remains the great mystery of the affair. Only a reading of the Russian Tupolev black box data will perhaps show that Skyguide is not solely responsible for the accident".

Compensation concerns

Swiss Radio International's Swissinfo web site is concerned about possible compensation claims.

Urs Lauener of the Federal Civil Aviation Office tells the radio that this would have to await the outcome of the full investigation, but acknowledges that Russian claims might run into billions of Swiss francs.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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