NORTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Many people scared of flying may be even more anxious knowing what can happen before they leave the ground, in the air, or after they land.
An investigation is shedding light on the number of close calls happening in the United States, and the numbers are bigger than previously thought.
So what is behind these unnerving numbers?
We’re talking about close calls.
These are what people in air transportation call “near misses” in the air, or runway incursions on the ground.
In one case, it was a business jet cleared to land on the same runway that already had an airliner in position waiting to take off.
There are also cases of planeloads of passengers taxing across active runways as airliners were taking off or landing.
Industry experts say these and other near catastrophes are happening more because of two factors — controller shortages and human error.
Federal officials expect to lose more than 1,400 controllers next year through retirements and other reasons.
Many controllers say, “It’s just ‘plane’ dangerous,” – pun intended.
Many already left the industry during the pandemic. Aviation regulators also slowed down training new controllers due to COVID restrictions.
And this field is seeing lots of retirements. Controllers have to leave at age 56. And regulators require new controllers to be 30 or younger. It’s affecting control centers. And The Times found, as of May, only three of the 313 U.S. Air Traffic facilities had enough controllers to meet Federal targets. That can lead to fatigue — a contributing factor in many incidents caused by mistakes and misjudgments.
Regulators promise they are trying to address the controller shortage. They’ve asked Congress for $117 million to hire and train 1,800 new controllers in the next fiscal year. but that’s just a start, as training can last years.