Report urges FAA to reduce close calls

April 09, 2003|By Sylvia Adcock | Sylvia Adcock,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

According to a new analysis of data from the Federal Aviation Administration, a commercial aircraft comes too close - so close as to nearly collide - to another plane on the ground or in the sky once every 10 days.

The report from Ken Mead, inspector general for the Department of Transportation, says that although the FAA has made progress in reducing such close calls, the number of serious incidents, in which the aircraft are often only seconds away from hitting, is a critical safety concern.

"The number ... is still too high considering the potential catastrophic results of a midair collision or a runway accident," said Mead's report. It also said the FAA underreported the seriousness of mistakes in the air by using a severity scale that may not accurately reflect the potential for a collision. The inspector general's office studied several years' worth of data.

The inspector general said a rating system, established in 2001, did not reflect the severity of the errors. For example, two commercial airliners near Philadelphia were head-on at the same altitude and less than 12 seconds from colliding - but the incident was labeled moderate instead of severe.

Sylvia Adcock is a reporter for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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