AUSTIN (KXAN) — The push to increase safety at airports across the nation is heating up.
This comes after reported close calls and near misses between airplanes, and now the topic is front and center.
“Our nation is experiencing a aviation safety crisis,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois.
On Thursday, the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation, discussed close calls and how to improve aviation safety.
Lawmakers said a wave of retirements and buyouts drained valuable experience from the U.S. aviation system in recent years.
“Coupled with the surge in demand, created essentially a perfect storm that has eroded the systems safety margins down to dangerously thin levels,” Duckworth said.
Austin is no stranger to these safety concerns. Back in February a FedEx flight and Southwest flight nearly collided.
“We have had too many near misses including one that could have been a total catastrophe,” said U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
That same flight highlighted in Thursday’s Aviation Subcommittee Hearing on “Addressing Close Calls to Improve Aviation Safety”.
“These two aircraft came within 100 feet of another,” Duckworth said as she pointed to an animation of the close call.
Doggett has been very vocal about the issues and what needs to be done to address them.
“We need to have an adequate number of air traffic controllers, we need state of the art technology,” Doggett said.
In October, the FAA told KXAN “The AUS Tower is authorized to staff 42 controllers. The current number of controllers at AUS Tower is 35. There are currently another eight Certified Professional Controllers in Training (CPC-IT) (not academy grads but controllers previously fully certified at another facility) at the facility.”
According to the FAA, Entry-level applicants that want to become and air traffic controller must complete required training courses and spend several months at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, but Doggett said one way to combat the safety concerns is getting more people trained.
“The FAA continues to insist that all people go through their academy in Oklahoma City, yet there are a number of community colleges and other colleges around the country that have good programs that can train people,” Doggett said.
“One serious close call is one too many. The FAA and the aviation community are pursuing a goal of zero serious close calls, which is a commitment from the Safety Summit in March. The FAA maintains extremely conservative standards for keeping aircraft safely separated and multiple layers of safety protect the traveling public. Safety experts follow up on all events and evaluate them for risks, and we hold annual runway safety meetings at every airport with a control tower.”Federal Aviation Administration
For more on FAA runway safety initiatives click here.
You can listen to the entire Aviation Subcommittee Hearing on Addressing Close Calls to Improve Aviation Safety here