The Associated Press has a story about runway safety that ought to scare everyone who flies in the United States. It cites a Government Accountability Office report warning that inadequate technology and overworked air traffic controllers are among the factors that may contribute to a serious collision on the ground.
The AP pointed out three harrowing cases of runway incursions, where loaded commercial jets nearly hit each other on runways in Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and LaGuardia this year.
A few choice excerpts from the GAO report:
According to NTSB, it has investigated several near collisions in recent years that could have been catastrophic if they had not been averted through pilot skill and luck.
… the fact that air traffic controllers at some of the nation’s busiest airports are regularly working 6-day weeks due to staffing shortages raises questions about the extent to which regularly working overtime may cause fatigue, which NTSB has cited as a contributing factor in air traffic control errors
… although FAA hired a permanent director at the Senior Executive Service (SES) level for the Office of Runway Safety in August 2007, the Office of Runway Safety did not have a permanent director for the previous 2 years, resulting in a lack of national program leadership, and its staff was reduced by about 45 percent over the last 4 years.
Recent serious runway incursions at airports with fully operational runway safety technology reveal persistent problems with their alerting functions.
I guess we’re not going to be able to say nobody warned us.