Death at Austin airport sparks new call for increased safety

Death at Austin airport sparks new call for increased safety

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is under fire for a series of incidents that led to a Texas congressman calling for FAA intervention.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is under fire for a series of incidents that led to a Texas congressman calling for FAA intervention.

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After a series of major accidents at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport this year alone, including the Tuesday morning death of a ground crew member who was struck and killed by a fuel truck on the runway, a Texas congressman has called for the state’s third-largest election. The airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take action and ensure safer conditions for its employees and passengers.

Tuesday’s death was the second of an Austin airport employee this year, following an accident in April when an American Airlines employee crashed his car, which tows planes from the gate, onto a jet bridge. “We have an incredibly busy airport,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) told CBS Austin after Tuesday’s death. “It’s the structure and the infrastructure. I think it’s a little stressful out there.”

This week, Doggett also called out the FAA for its efforts to address gaps in air traffic control safety, and asked the FAA to upgrade the classification of the Austin airport to increase its staffing levels and provide better pay and resources. Despite the influx of people moving to Austin, and the city hosting major events like the Formula 1 Grand Prix in October, which resulted in a record number of passengers flying in and out of the area, the airport only has 35 fully approved controllers. That number is “about 40 percent below the target level set by the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association,” Doggett explained in a statement to the FAA this week.

The lack of certified monitors has led to a number of potentially serious incidents at the airport this year. In late September, airport officials narrowly averted a near-miss between a fighter jet and a private jet, both of which were landing at the same time. It was the third near-miss in 2023 following a close call in June when an Allegiant flight had to stop at the last second to avoid a small plane, and one in February when a Fed Ex cargo plane was expected to land on the same runway it was on. A Southwest Airlines flight prepares for takeoff.

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“As rapid growth and flight growth continues at our airport, the FAA must urgently address ongoing air traffic control issues to increase passenger safety and support overburdened employees,” Doggett urged the FAA in a statement. Doggett told CBS Austin that the high cost of living in Austin “impacts the controllers who choose to come here. I want to see them get paid to attract the best controllers we can get to have a safer airport.”

In a statement issued earlier this week, officials said Austin Airport is “committed to maintaining safety across our airport along with all of our partners as we work to support the growing demand for air travel.”

    (tags for translation) CBS Austin 

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