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Fri, Jun 15, 2007

Kentucky Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Improve Aviation Safety

"We Simply Cannot Afford To Wait... For the FAA To Act"

Kentucky Congressman Ben Chandler introduced a bill Wednesday that calls for an independent review of the Federal Aviation Administration's aviation safety-related research programs -- in particular, those programs related to air traffic control and runway safety.

The FAA Aviation Safety Research Assessment Act of 2007 was introduced in response to aviation safety issues that have been emphasized recently, by an apparent increase in the number of reported aircraft near-collisions in the past month. Just this week, New York City reported five in-flight near-collisions in May, and the San Francisco International Airport reported a near-collision on its runway the same month, as ANN reported.

"The Comair crash last year made it clear that improved safety measures for air traffic controllers and pilots are desperately needed in airports throughout the United States," Chandler told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Considering the recent report, it is even more crucial that we act immediately to implement these much needed safety improvements."

While the FAA promised to adopt new rules that would make technology used to prevent runway accidents more affordable for airlines, they are still lagging behind on the implementation of these rules. This technology, if made available, could decrease the number of near-accidents that occur each year. Thirty-one "serious close calls" were reported in 2006.

"It is unacceptable that so many incursions are still taking place, even after the Comair crash at our own Blue Grass Airport," said Chandler. "We must do all we can to ensure that proper safety measures are implemented as soon as possible so that we can prevent similar tragedies from happening again."

Currently, the FAA is conducting research that could prevent accidents, such as the impact of controller workloads, avoiding runway incursions, and other human factors. The bill calls for an assessment of these aviation safety-related research programs to ensure they are operating effectively and in a timely manner.

The independent assessment would be made by a committee of the National Academies' National Research Council.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, a large number of their recommendations to the FAA remain in "unacceptable action" status, including preventing runway incursions, improving audio and data recorders, requiring video recorders on aircraft, reducing accidents caused by human fatigue, and improving crew resource management for air taxi operations.

"We simply cannot afford to wait any longer for the FAA to act. The FAA must be held accountable on their promises to bring added safety measures and equipment to airports across the nation," Chandler said.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.ntsb.gov, www.chandler.house.gov, www.nationalacademies.org/nrc

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