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

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FILE - The National Transportation Safety Board logo and signage are shown at a news conference at NTSB headquarters in Washington, Dec. 18, 2017. The nation's top accident investigator says an increase in close calls between planes at U.S. airports this year is a clear warning sign that aviation is under stress.  Close calls are extremely rare, but we cannot ignore the recent increase in such events, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy told a Senate committee on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2023.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnick, File)

FILE – The National Transportation Safety Board logo and signage are shown at a news conference at NTSB headquarters in Washington, Dec. 18, 2017. The nation’s top accident investigator says an increase in close calls between planes at U.S. airports this year is a clear warning sign that aviation is under stress. Close calls are extremely rare, but we cannot ignore the recent increase in such events, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy told a Senate committee on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnick, File)
picture: News agency

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 had been a “lack of meaningful training” — and more reliance on computer-based education — by the FAA and airlines. Technological improvements can help avoid what aviation insiders call “runway incursions,” she said.

Representatives of pilot and air traffic controller unions and a former head of the Federal Aviation Administration are scheduled to testify at the same hearing.

The FAA said earlier this week that it would hold meetings at 16 airports before the end of the year to come up with plans to identify and reduce safety risks.

Among the airports that will host meetings for airlines, pilots and ground equipment drivers are Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, and Logan International in Boston. These meetings are in addition to the 90 meetings the FAA announced in August.

There have been several close calls in recent months, with the scariest one being 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 away from collision.

The air traffic controller allowed both planes to use the same runway.

In other recent accidents, the pilots appeared to be at fault.

The NTSB is investigating about a half-dozen close calls this year, and the FAA says there were 23 categories of the most dangerous close calls in the last fiscal year, up from 16 the year before and 11 a decade ago. Some estimates suggest that these numbers greatly underestimate such incidents.

    (marks for translation) Quartz

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