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The FAA is investigating more alarming airplane near-disasters

The investigations come as top Republicans urge President Joe Biden to withdraw his pick to lead the FAA.
Posted at 7:51 PM, Mar 05, 2023

U.S. aviation officials are investigating an alarming number of recent near air disasters, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to announce a safety call to action.

The most recent mishap happened at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Monday.

Officials said a business jet took off without clearance, forcing an incoming JetBlue flight to abort its landing.  

Adam Johnson was on that JetBlue flight.

“The pilots did a really amazing job. I mean, we came in; it was a scary situation,” said Johnson.

2023 has already seen at least five near-miss incidents, a sign of trouble for an American aviation industry that hasn’t had a fatal commercial airline crash in nearly a decade.

“Anytime there is an event like this its concerning,” said Michael McCormick.

McCormick is a former Federal Aviation official and professor of Air Traffic Management at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.

He says while there’s been greater awareness of runway incursions, the number of incidents so far this year is not surprising.

“When you compare the actual data, this year versus last year, we’re actually down in what’s known as runway incursions or when aircrafts do something on the runway they shouldn’t be doing,” said McCormick.

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According to the FAA, the number of annual runway incursions has been largely trending downward over the last two decades but has risen more in recent years.

McCormick says one thing airports and federal safety officials can do to mitigate these type of incidents is creating what he calls hotspots.

“A hotspot at an airport is where there’s greater than acceptable risk that an event could occur, therefore when you identify these hotspots, you come up with different mitigation strategies such as additional technology,” said McCormick.

The incidents come at a critical time for the White House, as President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the FAA has faced questions over his relatively scarce aviation background.

Phil Washington—the president’s nominee—promised to protect air travelers at a confirmation hearing this week.

“The safety of the traveling public will remain my top priority,” said Washington.  

The National Transportation Safety Board has also launched a probe into the string of close calls.

“We have to make sure that our focus is first and foremost on safety, the aviation community and aviation is incredibly safe. We are the gold standard,” said Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Among other issues, McCormick says is plaguing the federal aviation administration a need for increased federal funding and the establishment of a focused task force with collaboration from the general aviation community, airline officials and safety experts.

Despite the recent close calls, McCormick says “air travel is the safest mode of transportation in the United States by the magnitude of thousands. So, I would feel comfortable flying.”