Close Calls Get FAA Attention

by NPHM | July 20th, 2010

A sharp rise in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) separation violations and a number of near-collisions involving airliners have spurred the FAA to call a meeting concerning these urgent safety problems and why pilots are making such dangerous errors.

On August 17, FAA employees and management and other safety experts will gather in Washington to discuss these issues. This will be the third such meeting held in less than four years. In 2007, the meeting concerned planes coming too close on the runway. The upcoming meeting is in response to near collisions in the sky.

For nine months ending June 30, FAA violations for separations standards increased to 3.28 per million flight operations—an increase from 2.44 per million flight operations in the full year ending September 30, 2009. According to The Detroit Free Press, flight operations include takeoffs, landings, and when planes pass from the control of one radar center to another.

Multiple incidents in which airliners almost crashed with other airplanes or helicopters have occurred in the last few months. Some of these incidents happened at major airports, including Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Burbank, Calif., and Anchorage, Alaska.

Though it’s the job of air-traffic controllers to keep planes separated, in many cases, these near-collisions were prevented by last-minute changes in direction by pilots due to cockpit alarms warning of an impending crash.

A new program that encourages controllers to disclose their mistakes without penalty has experienced success with about 250 to 300 incidents a week reported. Reports are used to spot trends.


“FAA probing near-crashes.” Lowy, Joan. July 2010. Accessed on 07/19/2010.