The FAA's safety alert is a loud message to the aviation industry that it needs to act quickly — and enact recommended safety measures — to prevent a catastrophe in the skies.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued a safety alert to airlines, pilots and others about the “need for continued vigilance and attention to mitigation of safety risks” after a series of high-profile near collisions.
“While the overall numbers do not reflect an increase in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of these events is concerning,” the FAA said.
Six serious runway incursions have occurred since January that prompted the agency to convene a safety summit last week.
“Operators should evaluate information collected through their safety management processes, identify hazards, increase and improve safety communications with employees and enact mitigations,” the alert said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a series of serious close calls, including a near collision in January between FedEx and Southwest Airlines planes in Austin, Texas, where the jets came within 100 feet of each other, and a runway incursion at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport involving an American Airlines plane.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week the United States could not wait for the next “catastrophic event” before addressing the uptick in aviation close calls.
NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said the board had previously issued seven recommendations on runway collisions that had not been acted on.
“There have been far too many close calls,” Homendy said at the summit last week. “These recent incidents must serve as a wake-up call.”
In a “call to action” memo last month, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said he was forming a safety review team.
In January, the FAA halted all departing passenger airline flights for nearly two hours because of a computer outage, the first nationwide ground stoppage of its kind since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The United States has not had a major fatal U.S. passenger airline crash since February 2009.
(Reporting by David Shepardson/Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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Photo credit: A view of the air traffic control tower at O’Hare International Airport after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures due to a system outage, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 11, 2023. Jim Vondruska / Reuters