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US safety board seeks answers on runway near-miss incidents


By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is holding a forum Tuesday on runway incursions after a series of close call incidents raised questions about the safety of U.S. aviation.

The NTSB is investigating six runway incursion events since January including some that could have been catastrophic.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a statement ahead of the forum that she hoped candid discussions would “spur meaningful, immediate action on the areas where we’re stalled.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement on Tuesday that the rate of runway incursions is declining after rising sharply earlier.

“Our efforts are working, but we must remain vigilant and continue to find ways to prevent close calls from happening at all,” Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said.

The runway incursion rate steadily increased from late 2022 and into 2023, peaking in March at 33 per 1 million takeoffs and landings. That rate fell to 19 in April.

For the most serious incidents, the rate jumped in January to 0.98 per 1 million takeoffs and landings and fell to 0.44 in April, according to the FAA.

The U.S. has not had a major fatal U.S. passenger airline crash since February 2009.

In March, the FAA said it was taking steps to improve air traffic control operations after telling employees “there is no question that we are seeing too many close calls.”

It convened a safety summit and issued a safety alert, citing the “need for continued vigilance”. In April, it named an independent safety review team.

Homendy said in February a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines plane came within 100 feet of each other in Austin in what could have been a “terrible tragedy”.

Near-miss incidents have also occurred in Boston, Florida and include a near collision at New York’s JFK airport between a Delta Air Lines Boeing plane and an American Airlines Boeing 777 that errantly crossed from an adjacent taxiway.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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