- Billy Nolen, the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, is creating a safety review committee.
- The group will assess recent incidents and determine if there are any emerging trends.
- The news comes after three disasters were narrowly avoided in New York, Austin, and Hawaii.
The FAA is taking action after several recent airline events almost ended in catastrophe.
Billy Nolen, the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, outlined his plan to asses airline safety by establishing a safety review committee that will “examine the US aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts,” in a memo sent Tuesday. The memo was first reported by Reuters.
“We are experiencing the safest period in aviation history, but we cannot take this for granted,” he wrote. “Recent events remind us that we must not become complacent. Now is the time to stare into the data and ask hard questions.”
The committee will start by holding a safety summit in March, which will include industry leaders and labor organizations, to determine which risk mitigations are working and which ones could be more effective.
—David Shepardson (@davidshepardson) February 14, 2023
The FAA has also tasked the agency’s Commercial Aviation Safety Team to comb through data and look for similar events to the ones seen in recent weeks, as well as determine if there are any emerging trends.
According to the FAA, the CAST has been a vital group in proactively identifying aviation safety risks and addressing them before an accident occurs. Since 1997, the team has reduced the fatality risk in commercial aviation by 94%, and wants to reduce that by another 50% by 2025.
The final action will be an assessment of the Air Traffic Organization, which is an operational division of the FAA that provides navigational services for the US aviation sector. Specifically, the review team will look at the “internal processes, systems, and operational integration” and determine the “actions needed to reinforce a collaborative, data-driven safety culture.”
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, praised Nolen for his decision.
“AFA will be an active participant in the Safety Call to Action and Summit, just like we put safety first every day on the job,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
The news comes after several near-crashes in different areas of the country involving five different airlines.
The first was on January 13 in which a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 nearly collided with an American Airlines Boeing 777 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Delta jet was cleared and rolling for takeoff when the American plane crossed the same active runway, forcing the 737 to abruptly stop and come within 1,400 of the 777.
Three weeks later, a FedEx Boeing 767 nearly landed on top of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 in Austin, Texas. The National Transportation Safety Board said the two jets were “probably under 100 feet vertically from each other,” Reuters reported.
The NTSB and the FAA have since launched investigations into both events, the former also looking into a December event in which a United Airlines Boeing 777 rapidly descended after takeoff from Kahului, Hawaii, and came within 775 feet of the ocean below.
“We must ensure that our structure is fit for purpose for the US aerospace system of both today and the Future,” Nolen wrote in the memo. “We know that our aviation system is changing dramatically. Now is the time to act.”