Quick Takes: Senate Examines Runway Risks in FAA Safety Inquiry

November 11, 2023 Written by; Aviation Seminars

FAA Safety Inquiry

In a pivotal gathering, key figures in aviation and lawmakers convened to deliberate on a series of aviation mishaps, highlighting potential lapses in the FAA’s air traffic control and overarching safety protocols.

The hearing, held on November 9, brought to the fore the expertise of National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Tim Arel, Rich Santa from the National Air Traffic Controller Association, Air Line Pilots Association’s Capt. Jason Ambrosi, and ex-FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., leading the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation, initiated the conversation, expressing alarm over the recent near misses in the aviation sector. She emphasized these incidents as red flags, indicating strains in the aviation infrastructure.

FAA Safety Inquiry
Senator Tammy Duckworth

Echoing Duckworth’s concerns, Homendy pointed out the alarming rise in runway incursions, with 23 serious incidents in fiscal 2023 compared to 16 in 2022. The NTSB, she added, is actively investigating seven such events this year, some involving perilously close encounters between aircraft.

Homendy’s testimony also touched on the post-pandemic challenges: increased air traffic, staffing deficits, operational fatigue, deviations from aviation regulations, and a lean towards computer-based and bulletin training over traditional methods.

Additionally, the hearing highlighted the critical need for proper staffing and rest for air traffic controllers, who are increasingly facing demanding work schedules. Santa emphasized a significant drop in the number of Certified Professional Controllers, cautioning against the continuation of the FAA’s current staffing practices.

The meeting also discussed in depth the planned runway meetings at various airports, as detailed in our article “Quick Takes: FAA Targets Zero Incidents with Runway Safety Plan.” These measures and meetings are a key focus in the current discourse on aviation safety.

Both the expert panel and lawmakers agreed on the necessity of passing a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill. This bill, earmarking $18.2 billion for advanced radar and electronic tracking systems, is seen as a pivotal step in enhancing surface movement tracking of aircraft and vehicles, thereby bolstering overall aviation safety.

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