Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Air Traffic Controller Errors Blamed for Near Miss Plane Crashes

The Federal Aviation Administration is once again focusing on air traffic controller issues, after a series of near miss incidents over the past few months.

According to the agency, it has investigated about half a dozen such incidents involving traffic controller errors, and involving aircraft flying around airports in Houston, Southern California, New York and Chicago. Obviously, this is not a problem that is restricted to one geographic area, and concerns are strong enough for the FAA to call for a range of measures, including stronger air traffic controller training.

One of the biggest concerns to California plane crash attorneys seems to be the fact that the FAA's insistence on self error-reporting by air traffic controllers isn't working as well as expected. In some of the incidents that have occurred, the FAA should have been notified of the error within 24 hours, but these errors were not reported until days after the incident had taken place. The agency requires that air traffic controllers report errors as soon as they occur, but has faced strong opposition from its own employees. The agency continues to place pressure on ATCs, but this hasn't gone down well with unions who claim that it’s the supervisors’ job to be overseeing the activities of the ATC, and not the duty of the ATCs to report any errors:

Some of these near-miss incidents have been severe enough to scare California air traffic control lawyers. They have also been far too frequent for comfort:
  • Two such incidents were reported near Houston's William P. Hobby Airport. Both incidents Involved Southwest Airlines Aircraft flying too close to other aircraft.
  • Last month, another Southwest aircraft flew within 200 feet of another aircraft after a Burbank airport traffic controller made an error in judging the spacing on the runway.
  • In February, another Southwest Airlines aircraft was involved in an incident in which pilots received a warning about another plane from the collision avoidance system, and were able to avoid a crash .
  • Similar such incidents have been reported in San Diego, New York and Chicago.
The FAA has its task cut out for it in getting air traffic controllers to report their mistakes. Until the agency can create an atmosphere of trust and cordiality, it's not going to be able to make a success of the self reporting system currently in place.

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