The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a safety alert to U.S. airlines, urging them to take action after a series of “notable and high visibility events” over the last few months shook confidence in the safety of the aviation industry.
In its letter to airlines, the FAA has urged “continued vigilance and attention to mitigation of safety risks” after six “serious” runway incursions were reported since January 2023.
The most high-profile of these reports was an incident at New York JFK Airport in January when an American Airlines-operated Boeing 777 aircraft accidentally taxied onto an active runway as a Delta jet was speeding along the tarmac for takeoff.
The FAA also cited an alarming incident in which a FedEx Express plane nearly landed on top of a Southwest Boeing 737 at Austin Bergstrom Airport after the Southwest was given takeoff clearance at the same time.
In that case, the two planes came within 100 feet of one another, and the pilots on both aircraft had to perform evasive actions to avoid a collision.
The FAA admits that there hasn’t been a discernible increase in the number of reported near-misses but warns that the “potential severity” of recent events is “concerning”.
“Recent events have highlighted several areas of focus,” the FAA told airlines. Specifically, the FAA is calling on airlines to highlight recent events with staff and to “reinforce adherence” to existing policies and procedures.
The FAA would also like airlines to ensure pilots and flight attendants have the same understanding of what a “sterile flight deck” means – the point at which communication between the cabin and flight deck should be limited so that pilots can concentrate.
In addition, airlines are being asked to improve ‘crew resource management’ in order to control the workload of pilots and “reduce distractions”.
The letter followed a ‘safety summit’ called by the FAA to discuss specific ways to improve flying safety.
“There is no question that aviation is amazingly safe, but vigilance can never take the day off,” warned acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen. “We must ask ourselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions, even when we are confident that the system is sound,” he continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.