The top US accident investigator says close calls between planes show the airline is under stress

The top US accident investigator says close calls between planes show the airline is under stress

An increase in phone calls between planes at U.S. airports this year is a “clear warning sign” that the aviation system is under stress, the nation’s top accident investigator said Thursday.

“Although these events are incredibly rare, our safety system is showing clear signs of stress that we cannot ignore,” Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a Senate committee on Thursday.

Homendy warned of the increasing shortage of air traffic and personnel since the outbreak of the pandemic. She said there was a “lack of meaningful training” — and more reliance on computer-based education — by the FAA and airlines, and too many irregular work schedules among pilots and air traffic controllers.

“This ends up being a distraction and exhausting,” she told the aviation subcommittee. “You miss things, you forget things.”

The NTSB is investigating six close calls, or what aviation insiders call “runway incursions.” The FAA identified 23 of the most dangerous types of close calls in the last fiscal year, which ended Oct. 1, up from 16 the year before and 11 a decade ago. Independent estimates indicate that these numbers significantly underestimate such incidents.

Thursday’s session included only a temporary discussion of the pilot’s mental health, which is on passengers’ minds due to the arrest of an accused off-duty pilot Trying to disable the plane In the middle of the flight and the allegedly co-pilot He threatened to shoot the captain. Critics have pointed out that federal screening relies on pilots disclosing whether they are taking medication or being treated for mental illness, including depression.

The FAA separately said it would appoint a panel of medical experts, aviation leaders and unions to make recommendations “on breaking down barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the agency.”

The Senate hearing did not bring up any new ideas to increase safety but did bring a new warning about the potential for travel disruptions over the upcoming holidays because the Federal Aviation Administration does not have enough air traffic controllers.

“We’re no better than we were last year, in terms of surveillance,” said Rich Santa, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “I think the FAA numbers indicate we will probably have six more air traffic controllers than we had last year.”

The union president said that many observers have to work 10 hours a day or six days a week.

The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General criticized the FAA in a Report this summerSaying the agency has made only “limited efforts” to fix staffing shortages at vital air traffic control centers.

Among the close calls in recent months, The scariest happened in February in Austin, Texas. During poor visibility in the early morning hours, a FedEx cargo plane preparing to land flew over a Southwest Airlines plane that was about to take off. The NTSB estimated they were about 100 feet (30 m) away from collision.

The air traffic controller allowed both planes to use the same runway. In other recent incidents, pilots appeared to be at fault for failing to follow controllers’ orders.

    (tags for translation) Aircraft Accidents 

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