FAA Issues Safety Alerts After Near Misses

March 22, 2023

Compared to years past, how safe do you feel traveling on US airlines now?

The Federal Aviation Administration issued safety alerts to U.S. airlines, pilots and other on Wednesday after a series of high-profile near-miss collisions.

The FAA alert stressed the “need for continued vigilance and attention to mitigation of safety risks,” stating that while “overall numbers do not reflect an increase in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of these events is concerning.”

The FAA had convened a safety summit last week, prompted by six serious runway incursions just since January. 

The agency’s alert went on to say, “Operators should evaluate information collected through their safety management processes, identify hazards, increase and improve safety communications with employees and enact mitigations.”

The NTSB is investigating a series of close calls, including a near collision in Austin in January, when a FedEx cargo plane came within 100 feet of landing on top of a Southwest Airlines jet that was taking off. Coincidentally, this Wednesday, the same two types of planes—a FedEx plane and a Southwest Jet—came within 200 feet of colliding at Baltimore-Washington Airport.

The FAA has four levels of severity for runway incursions—A, B, C and D—based on the level of severity. The incident at BWI was ranked as a Category B.

“Category B is an incident in which separation decreases and there is a significant potential for collision, which may result in a time critical corrective/evasive response to avoid a collision,” according to the FAA.

Some other near misses included incidents at New York’s JFK Airport and a helicopter landing at Hollywood-Burbank Airport.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week the United States could not wait for the next “catastrophic event” before addressing the uptick in aviation close calls.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, meanwhile, has said that “far too many” close calls must “serve as a wake-up call.” 

And in a “call to action” memo last month, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said he was forming a safety review team.

In January, all outbound domestic flights at airports across the U.S. were grounded by the FAA for nearly two hours because of a computer outage, impacting more than 1,200 flights. It was the first nationwide ground stoppage of its kind since 9/11.

The U.S. has not had a major fatal U.S. passenger airline crash since February 2009.

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