The air traffic controllers who direct all flight in the Washington region have been overseeing a record number of dangerous misses. So after 22 close calls, a team from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday, July 7, began reviewing procedures at the towers at airports in the region.
The Washington Post has been leading the coverage of problems in the Washington region, the third busiest airspace after New York and Los Angeles. In one instance on June 28, a 120-seat United Airlines Airbus 319 from Chicago, being guided to land at Reagan National, narrowly missed a 22-seat Gulfstream.
When the United pilot’s warning collision-avoidance systems sounded, he pulled up hard and saw the Gulfstream pass behind him. The FAA requires a distance of three miles or 1,000 feet in altitude between aircraft.
Among the other close calls – a Continental 737 came within 3,900 feet of a military plane from Andrews Air Force Base; an 80-passenger shuttle was turned into the path of a commuter jet at National; and a Beechcraft charter jet nearly collided with a 150-passenger JetBlue Airways Airbus that was directed in front of it at Dulles.
What’s happening? The FAA believes that a new reporting procedure that relaxes punitive action and encourages controllers to report mistakes might be to blame. Still, the FAA is panicked enough to plan a top safety meeting in Washington, August 17, to address aircraft safety problems to make sure all procedures are being followed. Jacksonville aviation attorneys hope for a successful meeting and that all problems with the current procedures are remedied.
It’s also possible that the air traffic controllers who were hired in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan fired all of the controllers in a strike, are now retiring and new and inexperienced recruits are being trained to replace them.
Nationwide, there were 949 near misses last year in the Washington region. Last year there were 18 problems reported in the Washington region for the entire year.