Near-Collisions Prompt Congressional Call for Assessment of U.S. Air Safety

June 18, 2007

Alarmed by the number of near-collisions in the nation’s skies last year, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler has introduced a bill aimed at taking a closer look at the Federal Aviation Administration’s airport safety programs.

The bill, called the FAA Aviation Safety Research Assessment Act of 2007, would require a one-time independent assessment of the FAA’s safety-related research programs.

Chandler, who represents Kentucky’s 6th District, said last year’s crash of Comair Flight 5191 only proved how vital it is to improve safety measures. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport last August, killing 49 of 50 people on board.

“The Comair crash last year made it clear that improved safety measures for air traffic controllers and pilots are desperately needed throughout the United States,” Chandler said.

The FAA reported 31 “close calls” last year in the nation’s airports and skies. Chandler called the number “unacceptable” in light of the events following the Comair crash.

“We must do all we can to ensure that proper safety measures are implemented as soon as possible so we can prevent similar tragedies from happening again,” Chandler said.

The FAA is currently studying ways to prevent accidents, including taking a look at the workload of air traffic controllers and other human factors.

The bill is asking for an assessment of the FAA’s programs by a committee of the National Academies’ National Research Council.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a large number of recommendations it made to the FAA are in “unacceptable action status.” The recommendations include improving audio and data recorders and requiring video recorders on aircraft.

“We simply cannot afford to wait any longer for the FAA to act,” Chandler said. “The FAA must be held accountable on their promises to bring added safety measures and equipment to airports across the nation.”

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