Military Blocks The Release Of Jet Crash Tapes - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Military Blocks The Release Of Jet Crash Tapes

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The Federal Aviation Administration was ready to release a 16-minute audio recording between an air traffic controller and the pilot of an F/A-18 jet that crashed in University City last December. The recording may tell us if the pilot was told to steer clear of Miramar. But early Wednesday afternoon, News 8 received a statement from the FAA letting us know that recording is on hold.

On Dec. 11 of last year, News 8 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FAA, but now we've learned the military is blocking that request.

On Dec. 8, a military jet crash wiped out a University City family. At community meetings, residents have asked for air traffic control audio recordings. Residents want to know if the military made a mistake, sending a troubled jet over homes instead of landing at North Island.

Ron Belanger is a former military pilot who lives a few doors down from the crash. He says North Island is where distressed planes are supposed to go, because they approach over water.

"The policy is to go into North Island as far as I've been able to determine, and they were making an exception to that policy on the day of the crash by coming in here," Belanger said.

News 8 wants to know if air traffic controllers with the FAA recommended North Island or another air strip instead of Miramar to the pilot, and the FAA confirms a tape does exist.

"The audio in question is about 16 minutes in length and it contains communications between the Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot and an FAA air traffic controller," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Gregor is responding to a statement released by the FAA that reads:

"The military has asked us to delay releasing the audio records from the F-18 crash until Feb. 27, 2009. They indicate that releasing the audio before that date would jeopardize their crash investigation. We are honoring the military's request."

"Our legal counsel, after reviewing the Marine Corps request determined that there is a legitimate legal justification for temporarily delaying the release of the audio," Gregor said.

Although the FAA says the troubled military pilot makes the final decision on where he lands, residents have a hard time understanding why the tapes need to remain withheld.

"I think if the Marine Corps would just loosen up a bit and not be so uptight about this, they would get a lot of happiness in this neighborhood, just by keeping us cut in on things," Belanger said.

The FAA tells News 8 they have every intention of releasing the audio tape on or about Feb. 27.

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