The increase in dangerous incidents in aviation raises safety concerns

Federal officials began investigating a close call between planes in Boston, and they provided new details Thursday about a tragic incident at an airport in Texas.

The National Transportation Safety Board says they haven’t determined how close a FedEx cargo plane passed over a Southwest Airlines jet last month in Austin, Texas, but has small margin.

“We still believe the planes were within 100 feet of each other,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in an interview.

An air traffic controller cleared the two planes to use the same runway, the NTSB said in a preliminary report. With visibility down to a quarter-mile due to freezing fog, the FedEx pilots didn’t see the Southwest jet until the final seconds.

The NTSB is also investigating an incident Monday night at Boston’s Logan International Airport in which a Learjet pilot who was told by an air traffic controller to wait instead began to take off while a plane that JetBlue is heading to an intersecting runway. JetBlue pilots quit, collision avoidance.

Those and similar incidents in New York, California and Hawaii led the head of the Federal Aviation Administration to call for a “safety summit” and ignited a debate over whether aviation safety is declining or the incidents are just rare. which is a bunch of serious close calls.

“I don’t know that I can say it’s a trend, but it’s distracting because it’s one,” Homendy said. “That’s why we analyze incidents – so we can identify problems, especially if we see trends, and solve them before they turn into a full-blown accident.”

Among other recent incidents currently under investigation:

— Last week the pilots of a small plane aborted their landing in Burbank, California, after a controller cleared another plane which take off from the same runway; THE The NTSB is investigating.

— A United Airlines jet crossed a runway at Honolulu International Airport in front of a Cessna cargo plane which landed on the same runway on January 23.

— The NTSB took the unusual step of issuing subpoena for pilots in a American Airlines plane crossing a runway that is a Delta Air Lines jet was used to take off on January 13 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The American pilots initially refused to sit for recorded interviews, but they complied after getting subpoenas, Homendy said.

— Federal officials are re-examining an incident where a United Airlines jet took off from Hawaii dove within 800 feet in the ocean before recovery. United said the pilots on the December flight received additional training.

Aside from the United plane that went down hard after takeoff, the other incidents were “runway incursions” where a plane went down a runway when it wasn’t supposed to be there. A 2017 forum convened by the NTSB found that the most common causes of runway incursions were pilots ignoring orders from air traffic controllers, or poor communication between pilots and controllers.

“Runway incursions are always an area of ​​concern, but they’re worse because the system is very secure,” said John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Fortunately we haven’t had many accidents, so we’re focusing on these risk precursors.”

Pilots are the last line of defense in aviation safety. In some recent incidents – notably the one in Austin – the pilots saw something was wrong and reacted quickly.

The incidents could end any possibility of easing experience requirements for newly hired pilots, which is something smaller, regional airlines are asking to help them. cope with the pilot shortage. by President Joe Biden nominee for the FAA’s top job, Phillip Washington, said Wednesday that he opposes easing pilot-qualification standards.

Close calls may also lead to demands for improved technology at airports and on airplanes. Kennedy airport has a ground-surveillance radar designed to prevent runway incursions. It alerted controllers that the American Airlines plane was crossing an active runway. only 35 US airports have that technology.

Investigators cannot hear what the pilots were doing before most of the recent incidents because the cockpit voice recordings were erased after two hours of flight. As of 2018, the NTSB has asked the FAA to require 25 hours of recording capability, which would improve the likelihood of storing valuable information.

Apart from the close calls, there have also been several recent incidents involving serious turbulence causing injuries on planes. In the latest case, a Lufthansa plane flying from Austin to Germany diverted at Washington Dulles International Airport on Wednesday night; seven people on board were injured it is not good to go to hospitals. The FAA said it is investigating.

The close calls have drawn the attention of lawmakers, who have questioned the FAA’s acting oversight of them. The officer, Billy Nolen, protects safety of the country’s air travel system last month while acknowledging the need for vigilance.

“We are experiencing the safest period in the history of aviation, but we are not ignoring that,” Nolen told a Senate committee. “Recent events remind us that we cannot be complacent.”

Nolen, like airline industry executives, points out that there hasn’t been a fatal crash involving an airliner in the US since 2009, an unprecedented time.

However, he said at the hearing and in an internal memo, he formed a “safety review team” to examine the aviation system, starting with a meeting in March “to assess what additional actions should be taken.” of the aviation community to maintain our safety record.” Nolen said aviation leaders will examine which measures are working “and why some don’t seem to be as effective as they used to be.”

The FAA said Thursday that the summit will be March 15 and will include representatives from commercial aviation, airports, labor and aviation experts.

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