Concerns have been raised about aviation safety standards in the United States after a report was released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which revealed that there had been at least 46 close-call incidents last month concerning commercial airline flights.
Roughly one week following the release of the report, it was revealed that federal authorities initiated an investigation into nearly five thousand pilots who are under suspicion of altering their medical records.
In response to coverage by The New York Times, the FAA stated that “The US aviation system is the safest in the world, but one close call is one too many.” The FAA added that it had “virtually eliminated the risk of fatalities aboard US commercial airlines.”
Frequency of “close calls” raises questions about aviation safety
According to a report by The New York Times, incidents of near collisions involving commercial airlines have been occurring several times each week. These close calls involve all major US airlines and are taking place across various locations throughout the country. The New York Times conducted a review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report detailing these occurrences.
The number of near misses has increased by over two-fold in the last ten years, as reported by The New York Times. Nonetheless, it remains uncertain whether this rise is a result of worsening safety conditions or an uptick in voluntary reporting.
Within the database, the publication identified records from aviation officials who detailed their apprehensions about aviation safety subsequent to encountering a close call.
The FAA has said that it is “pursuing a goal of zero serious close calls,” but insists that air travel remains safe. The organization pointed to the low incidence of accidents over the past decade as evidence for this.
shortage of air traffic controllers
According to the report, human error, particularly by air traffic controllers played a significant role in many of the near misses. One air traffic controller commented, “Is it going to take people dying for something to move forward?” after a midair collision nearly occurred.
The shortage of air traffic controllers has garnered significant attention, particularly in light of extensive flight delays and cancellations, particularly following the pandemic-related lockdowns.
In response to this deficiency, the FAA has taken steps to address the situation by recruiting 1,500 new controllers for the year 2023. In March, the Transportation Department submitted a funding request of 117 million dollars for the purpose of hiring additional air traffic controllers.
FAA investigates pilots hiding health issues
At the same time, concerns have also been raised about a significant number of pilots working for commercial airlines who have allegedly concealed health issues that may impact their ability to fly.
The individuals being examined are pilots with military backgrounds who informed the FAA that they were in suitable health for flying. However, they neglected to adhere to legal obligations by not disclosing that they were simultaneously receiving veterans benefits due to disabilities that could render them ineligible for piloting.
Inconsistencies in their claims were identified by Veterans Affairs investigators over two years ago through a cross-referencing of federal databases. Despite this discovery, the FAA has withheld numerous aspects of the case from public knowledge.
Matthew Lehner, an FAA spokesman, recently revealed that the organization is investigating approximately 4,800 pilots “who might have submitted incorrect or false information as part of their medical applications.”