Runway Incident In Hawaii; FAA To Hold Safety Summit In March


The day after Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen announced he wants to hold a Safety Summit next month, CNN reported that there was a serious runway incursion involving a United Airlines 777 and Cessna Caravan at Daniel K. Inouye Airport in Honolulu on Jan. 23. The network reported the 777 crossed the runway where the Kamaka Air Caravan cargo plane was landing. The Caravan came to a stop before the crossing point of the heavy but they came within 1,170 feet of each other. It was the fourth serious incident reported since December. This month there have also been serious runway incidents at JFK and Austin. In December, an aircraft on initial climbout from Kahului Airport dropped about 1500 feet to less than 800 feet above the ocean before the crew recovered, pulling 2.7 G’s in the process.

In a memo to his senior management on Tuesday Nolen said he wants to bring together leaders from all corners of aviation to discuss what some have said are ominous signs the system is weakening. “A group of commercial and general aviation leaders, labor partners, and others will examine which mitigations are working and why others appear to be not as effective as they once were,” Nolen wrote. Nolen said he also wants to know if there have been any other close calls that haven’t been made public.

“We need to mine the data to see whether there are other incidents that resemble ones we have seen in recent weeks,” he said. “And we need to see if there are indicators of emerging trends so we can focus on resources to address now.” He also wants to look at the Air Traffic Organization with an eye to reinforcing “a collaborative, data-driven safety culture.” Nolen stressed the aviation system continues to be in a safe spell and he wants to keep that going. “Now is the time to stare into the data and ask hard questions.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • Having worked for the Airlines, they are schedule driven . ” Make schedule ” or else…
      This in part due to the pax culture of today of ” instant gratification demands “

      • Having flown for the military, it is also make sked or else, but part of being trusted as PIC in either case is standing up and accepting the consequences when it is unsafe to make sked. There are no “troops in contact” exception situations in the airlines. “Truth to power” is a popular concept, until you have to do it yourself. It may not turn out like the fairy tale happy ending for you, but those entrusted to you will get to live out their lives even if you require a new employer or career.

      • I disagree. I also flew for the airlines and we never passed up an opportunity to make a few extra minutes per leg.

  1. Rectal cranial impaction? Well put. If you haven’t copyrighted it can I use it?

    Just be careful, it seems to be contagious in some circles…

  2. Translation to what Billy Nolen said: We Need to Light a Fire Under Everyone’s Butt and Get Sh*t Done Before I get Canned.

  3. And……these are just the ones that make the news. I know of two snow-plow/air carrier incidents (03-2022) that the FAA (in concert with the perps) swept under the table as non issues. Both were much closer than the recent attention-getters on CNN. Both were 1 to 3 seconds away from a fatal disaster. In the end it was all about denial and cover-up vs. using these cases to prevent future tragedy. I filed the report as an FAASafety Team rep, I have the video, and I have the denial letter from the FAA.

    Sum ting wong.

    God bless.

  4. 30 years flying for a major airline has shown me one thing for sure – some pilots will eventually screw up and it will result in a close call, or worse. And there’s absolutely NOTHING an unqualified head of the FAA can do about it!

    • Given that humans make mistakes and eventually the holes in the cheese line up, there’s nothing any head of the FAA can do about it. Eventually there will be another air carrier accident. The best we can do is minimize the risks as much as possible. The acting administrator’s actions seem designed to act in furtherance of this goal.

    • The passengers push, management pushes, and the press’s publishing of on-time statistics pushes every part of the chain. It’s the PIC’s duty to push back when necessary for safety. Perhaps pilots, management, ATC and the public all need a pointed reminder of that.

      • I carry no water for the contemporary press, but publishing on time stats seems like a reasonable service for consumers. Any airline is perfectly able to give itself more time to turn a plane or arrive on time.

        IMO, much of the problem with airlines is the lack of differentiation. Without that, the cattle are being shipped by the cheapest carrier. If an airline could manage to attract a passenger base that chose on time over a few dollars less, they’d likely have happier customers and employees.

  5. It seems to run in groups, incidents that is. But, look at the thousands of operations per day, millions per year that don’t grab a headline. And yes, even the most experienced pilot or controller, being human, will at some point in their career go brain dead. Fortunately, as was the case in the JFK runway incursion, even though the pilot screwed up, the system worked just fine. Controller saw it and probably the departing pilot also and stopped it with at least a 1000′ of separation. The media made it sound like wing tip to wing tip. One is one too many, but it just works fine. Nothing wrong with second guessing and closing that barn door if it is actually opened, but it is a system that works great. And yes, at some point down the line another will occur out of those millions of operations. Hope it’s not a bad one. But as my dad told my mom one day as she was complaining about something, “Nancy, life isn’t perfect!” From a former 38 year ATC type.

  6. I think it’s time to re-emphasize sterile cockpit procedures including use of cell phones while on board the aircraft. I think the FAA should also make sure this isn’t an issue in ATC facilities .

    • I visited a USAF RAPCON a couple of years ago. Before entering, all personnel are required, including me, to place their cell phones in a holder outside the door.

  7. If there’s a problem with the airlines, you get a few airline pilots together along with a few other experts and you figure out how to make a better airline.

    If you then decide not to build the better airline, you make a list of the biggest reasons why it’s not a good idea to do so.

    You now have a list of the actual problems of why we do not have better airlines (not only for the passengers, but for the employees ). I’ll bet dollars to donuts “the passengers” is not on the list of reasons not to start an airline. Likely, it’s because they are the reason you start an airline in the first place!

  8. A non aviator defines the problem
    Victor Davis Hanson / February 16, 2023
    Destroying Meritocracy Is Deadly

    Near and actual airline accidents come amid a general landscape of aviation chaos.
    A recent epidemic of airline near misses deserves both attention and reflection.

    In mid-December, a San Francisco-bound United Airlines Boeing 777-200 airliner, just a little over a minute after taking off from Maui, Hawaii, suddenly dived. It lost more than half its altitude and came within 800 feet of crashing into the Pacific Ocean before pulling up.

    About a month later, an American Airlines jet crossed the runway at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport just as a Delta Air Lines plane was accelerating for takeoff. The two aircraft nearly collided.

    Then in February, a FedEx cargo jet at the Austin, Texas airport just missed crashing into a Southwest Airlines airliner by a mere 100 feet.

    The same month an American Airlines Airbus A321 was being towed out of the gate at Los Angeles International airport, and smashed into a bus carrying passengers between terminals, injuring five.

    These near and actual accidents come amid a general landscape of aviation chaos.

    After Christmas, Southwest Airlines simply canceled 71 percent of its flights. It blamed staff shortages due to storms. The airline seemed incapable of ensuring enough of their pilots, attendants, crews, and airport staff could get to work.

    The Federal Aviation Administration in January canceled all flight departures from the United States for two hours due a computer safety system collapse. Thousands of additional flights were canceled, many for over 24 hours.

    Something has gone terribly wrong.

    Either the Department of Transportation and its Secretary Pete Buttigieg, or the head of the FAA, or the quality of either ground crews, pilots, or air traffic controllers — or all combined — are putting American travelers at mortal risk.

    If not corrected, these near-death airline experiences and the near collapse of the U.S. commercial aviation system presage catastrophes to come.

    Similar problems are plaguing the U.S. military.

    On July 21, 2021 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley assured the country that “The Afghan security forces have the capacity and capabilities needed to fight and defend their country.”

    Those forces utterly collapsed in a matter of hours less than a month later.

    On the eve of the war in Ukraine, the Pentagon wrongly warned Congress that Kyiv could fall within 72 hours of a general Russian invasion.

    This month, the Defense Department officials apparently allowed a series of surveillance balloons to enter U.S. airspace. President Joe Biden claims he was advised by the military not to shoot down a Chinese survival balloon craft as it crossed with impunity much of the United States.

    In the aftermath, Pentagon spokespeople gave incomplete, mutually contradictory, and absurd explanations for these serial violations of U.S. airspace, most likely perpetrated by the Chinese communist government.

    The Pentagon likewise disputes details of recruitment shortfalls. But the military brass concedes that many branches of the military are still between a third to a quarter short of their recruitment goals — despite the military steadily lowering standards for enlistment. It denies that the new woke military culture has alienated future recruits, although polls suggest otherwise.

    The same shortfall is true of U.S. weapon arsenals. Between cuts in the defense budget, poor procurement planning, incompetent administration, and massive arms shipments to Ukraine, the military suffers dangerously low inventories of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, artillery shells, rockets, missiles, and mines.

    America’s security, safety, prosperity, and postmodern lifestyles are not our birthright.

    They are the dividends of centuries of prior hard work, unfettered freedom of speech, disinterested research, and a meritocracy.

    Tamper with any of that and the system begins to fall apart.

    The United States will then resemble the miasma we see in most of the world abroad where ideology suppresses free inquiry, political correctness warps research, and tribalism trumps meritocracy.

    Many of the major airlines have established racial and gender quotes for government pilot training programs. United Airlines has set quotas to ensure half of its trainees will be minorities or women. Since 2013, the FAA has been lowering standards for air traffic control qualifications to achieve de facto race and gender quotas.

    In testimony before Congress our top military brass has bragged not of their reduction in standards for enlistment, but of their “diversity” hiring, as they purportedly ferret out “white supremacy” and “white rage.”

    In sum, our government is playing with our lives as it prefers diversity, equity, and inclusion over ensuring the best qualified employees are hired on the basis of racially and gender-blind competitive tests and experience.

    Keep it up, and there are going to be a lot more Afghanistan-style surrenders, Chinese surveillance craft in our skies, and airline nightmares.

      • Raf, Your question marks are cryptic. It seems like a well written article with reasoned points. Why the question marks?

          • Raf, I think ad hominem attacks are pretty low. I’m aware the guy is pro Trump, but how about we act better than the Trumpsters and make constructive arguments?

        • “Either the Department of Transportation and its Secretary Pete Buttigieg, or the head of the FAA, or the quality of either ground crews, pilots, or air traffic controllers — or all combined — are putting American travelers at mortal risk.”

          All due respect, it’s not well reasoned at all. Is he arguing for more regulation? Less regulation? Or none at all? He offers no disclosed fact to show why these incidents–the NOTAMs fiasco excepted–could have either been caused by or prevented by anything the FAA did or can do.

          Perhaps he’s implying airline pilots should be beaten so they won’t take wrong turns on taxiways. Whatever…give examples and offer the solutions. Otherwise it’s just generic government bashing.

          • Seems much less detailed than that, Paul. He’s saying that these and other events are due to the decline of meritocracy, and some other traditional values he thinks are, or were, exceptional in our country.
            I don’t think that many people in our country think it’s gotten more meritocratic in the last few decades. I think the argument is how that’s happened and what to do about it.
            Seems to me, he’s against quotas and wants them to end. As for some smoking gun connection to the FAA, I think that’s asking a bit much. We do a heck of a lot more policy justification on correlation rather than demanding obvious causal relationships.
            I disagree with blaming things on quotas. Seems to me there are easier targets to pin things on. There shouldn’t be that much trouble teaching enough pilots if we demanded 100% were both minorities and women.
            I do have to agree though that meritocracy is becoming more and more of an issue. It’s just not that diversity is the killer. More meritocracy should end both the need for and desire for quotas.
            Same with free speech issues, and disinterested research. Our elite institutions have a sickness, and everyone knows it. How much more evidence do we need on that? Or, are we going to attack the people in academia showing the emperor is naked rather than confront their evidence?

  9. These events will unfortunately become more common as hiring standards are reduced due to an ever lessening pool of higher time pilots. Not sure what we can do about that other than stress situational awareness in training. I tend to believe though that the best situational awareness comes from the flight time accrued through experience and not from a classroom.

    • What I find most concerning is that 3 of 4 ref’d incidents are senior crews (UA777 x2, AA translant)…if they were low time knuckleheads we could talk more about trng/hiring.

      The system-wide Master Caution is flashing, I hope the solution is more than black tape to smother the glare.

      • Your ??? point?

        My point is that crews who should be the positive example are the problem in these incidents. If I was out doing basic rejoins with trusted crews and we ended up nearly swapping paint a few times, that would not change the stats, but the debrief would be a lot louder with recommendations to remove one’s head from their @$$ before we repeat the exercise.

        My recommendation system wide is for every entity to remind their staff that “mindfulness” is essential to the task at hand…or in a saltier version, pull your head out before manning up.

          • It was not for you but I like your comment. I am sure that, by now, everyone’s head is out and swiveling as it happens soon after NMACS, runway incursions, and other attention-getters.

  10. Hi all,
    A few comments from a retired 38 yr atc guy. Busy cockpits, 2 man crews the norm. Busy airports, demanding taxi instructions, if in doubt, ask, verify.
    Lots of new young pilots and controllers. Good supervision is needed.
    I’ m all in on mr. billy nolen. He needs to be the permanent faa administrator.
    Saw him at eaa airventure, at the annual meet the administrator, hosted by jack pelton. Smart , articulate, knowledgeable.
    30+ yrs in aviation, american airlines, MD-80, B757/767.
    many safety related positions. American, West Jet, Qantas.
    He knows what the ident button is, adsb is, part 103 is, what an ils critical area is.
    Bidens pick for permanent admin Mr. Phillip Washington. Well ok, came out of the
    LA transportaton office. Now embroiled in corruption charges, hes been the DIA Denver
    airport CEO. One year in aviation at the top in an office.
    Lets hope Billy gets the nod to be permanent.
    Someone who knows the nuts and bolts, and moved up the ranks.
    I hope to meet billy again this year at airventure.
    Weve had some great faa administrators , jane garvey, randy babbitt as bosses.
    Weve also had some doozies.
    Help Mr. Billy Nolen get selected to be permanent.

    Michael Radtke
    retired FAA.