The National Airspace System Safety Review Team (SRT), an FAA-appointed panel of experts, blames Congress’ “shutdown politics” and inadequate FAA funding for increases in close calls involving air safety. In a report released yesterday (Nov. 15), the panel addressed what it describes as recurring gridlock: “This stop-and-start process in Congress has resulted in the disruption of critical activities, notably including the hiring and training of air traffic controllers. It has also slowed down the implementation of key technology modernization programs, delayed thousands of flights, and held up billions of dollars of airport infrastructure investments.”
In its executive summary portion of the report, the SRT quoted the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) definition of the core topic: “Safety is the state in which the possibility of harm to persons or of property damage is reduced to, and maintained at or below, an acceptable level through a continuing process of hazard identification and safety risk management.”
The panel identified challenges up for discussion, including:
-Process Integrity (strengthening FAA organizational structures, institutionalizing roles and responsibilities, and advancing a proactive, data-driven safety culture)
-Staffing (accurately projecting and investing in hiring, training, and certification of the workforce)
-Facilities, Equipment and Technology (sustaining and modernizing National Airspace System (NAS) infrastructure and investing in technology to maximize safety and efficiency)
-Funding (accurately and consistently funding and authorizing the FAA to facilitate the provision and safety oversight of 24/7, 365 days/year operations.)
The chair of the panel, former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, told reporters yesterday that there is no “silver bullet” to be found in the information uncovered by the probe. But he did cite that the FAA financial account designated for updating equipment has sat unused for several years, and the result was that spending capacity had diminished over that time.