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Aviation Experts Urge Increased Staffing and Technology Investment for FAA Safety

by Anna

A group of aviation experts examining the safety record of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has called for improved staffing, equipment, and technology to address a surge in serious close calls between planes. The experts emphasized that the margin of safety in the nation’s airspace is eroding and will continue to decline without decisive action.

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In a 52-page report issued on Wednesday, the experts, led by former FAA administrator Michael Huerta, highlighted the challenges facing the FAA and linked many of them to inadequate and inconsistent funding. The report was released amid congressional efforts to avoid a partial government shutdown.

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The group, which included the most recent past chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, called for the FAA to be insulated from annual funding battles in Washington. They underscored the need for a comprehensive approach to address staffing shortages, technology limitations, and outdated equipment.

According to the report, the FAA has about 1,000 fewer fully certified controllers than it had 11 years ago, with hiring dropping by nearly half during the pandemic. The training center in Oklahoma City was identified as a bottleneck. The experts noted that the FAA made limited efforts to ensure adequate air traffic controller staffing at critical facilities, leading to shortages at key locations, particularly in New York and Florida.

The group highlighted the risks associated with controllers working more overtime, introducing potential risks into the nation’s airspace, leading to increased absenteeism, lower productivity, and fatigue. The aging technology and facilities of the FAA were identified as a significant concern, with the report citing a January outage that briefly grounded flights nationwide.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, who assumed the role last month, expressed the agency’s commitment to reviewing the panel’s recommendations to pursue the goal of zero serious close calls. The report calls for urgent action to address the identified challenges and ensure the continued safety and efficiency of the national airspace.

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