Personnel and technology issues threaten aviation security, the report says

A panel of outside experts appointed by the Federal Aviation Administration called for “urgent action” Wednesday to address safety risks in the nation’s aviation system, citing problems such as air traffic controller shortages and outdated technology.

FAA announced the formation of the groupThe National Airspace System Safety Review Team, in April after a series of close calls at airports across the country, the commission issued 52 page report on Wednesday presenting their findings.

In addition to calling on the FAA to address the shortage of air traffic controllers and improve its aging technology, the report also recommended changes to how the agency is funded, such as expanding government shutdown protections.

“The current erosion in the margin of safety in the NAS caused by the combination of these challenges makes the current level of safety unsustainable,” the report said, referring to what is known as the National Airspace System.

The panel of experts was led by Michael P. Huerta, who served as FAA administrator under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump. It also includes other former federal officials and former union leaders.

“There are no easy short-term solutions to many of these challenges,” Mr Huerta told reporters on Wednesday. “Addressing the risks in the NAS requires the FAA, the Administration, Congress and others throughout the industry to work together.”

New York Times investigations published in August and October found that the country’s vaunted aviation security system is under increasing stress. The Times found that close calls involving commercial airlines occurred an average of several times a week.

A severe shortage of air traffic controllers — The Times found that 99 percent of the country’s air traffic control facilities are understaffed — is one major factor.

The report released on Wednesday also warned of the risks posed by aging technology. In January, an FAA system outage grounded flights across the country and led to a wave of passenger delays and cancellations.

“The age and condition of FAA facilities and equipment raise systemic risk to unsustainable levels, even before accounting for the loss of efficiency due to outdated technology,” the report said.

The agency said it has taken steps to reduce the risk of close calls at airports, such as providing funds to reconfigure taxiways and improve runway lighting.

“The FAA welcomes the independent safety review team’s report, and we will thoroughly review the recommendations,” the agency’s new administrator, Michael G. Whitaker, who was confirmed by the Senate last month, said in a statement. “We appreciate the team’s time and expertise helping us achieve our goal without any serious close calls.”

The near misses also caught the attention of Congress. Senate Subcommittee held a hearing on the subject last week, and among the witnesses was Jennifer L. Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating a series of near-miss incidents.

“While these events are incredibly rare, our security system is showing clear signs of stress that we cannot ignore,” Ms Homendy said.

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