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Close Calls Cast a Shadow on Summer Air Travel

Posted on June 19, 2023

A series of near collisions at U.S. airports this year has cast a shadow on summer air travel, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. Airlines and regulators are studying why planes nearly collided on the runways in a growing and troubling trend that could derail a 14-year streak without a fatal major U.S. airline crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) convened a meeting to focus on the recent incidents, which included a FedEx cargo plane nearly landing on top of a Southwest Airlines jet that was taking off at the same time in Austin, Texas, and a pilot making a wrong turn on a runway and nearly colliding with another jet in New York. Other near misses happened in California, Baltimore, and Boston.

Experts noted that it was not clear what was behind the near misses. Possible explanations include lack of experience among newer pilots, distractions facing air-traffic controllers and fatigue from challenging work schedules. Some attributed the errors to post-pandemic strain, where pilots retired early, and their replacements are being fast tracked to meet current demand. Even complacency, from so long without an incident, was proposed as a theory.

The number of air traffic controllers dipped to a decade low of 10,268 in 2020 during the pandemic, and the FAA has been struggling to bring on new controllers and train them. There is a concern that staff, from controllers to pilots and front-line workers, are being rushed through training. The FAA appointed a panel of former industry and government officials to look at ways to improve safety oversight.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating six close calls. The NTSB will likely address training, technology, and situational awareness to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

While these incidents did not result in injury, not all in-flight errors are minor. If you or someone you love was injured while traveling on an airplane and believe that negligence or error was involved, it may help to discuss the details with an experienced aviation accident attorney in Philadelphia. Firm founder Tom Duffy is a licensed and skilled commercial multi-engine pilot and understands the procedures and mechanics behind air travel. Contact us today to set a convenient time to speak.