Experts say an outdated air traffic control system may have contributed to the Oct. 21 incident in which a Northwest Airlines jet flew 150 miles past its intended arrival airport. Pilots flying cross-country must manually change radio frequencies dozens of times to stay in touch with controllers. Digital radio with text-message capability would help to alleviate the problem, but the NextGen system is still years from completion and international aviation authorities have not agreed on a standard technology for radio upgrades.

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