Air Safety Threatened by Staffing Shortages

( – While air travel continues to be the safest means of getting from point A to point B, a review conducted by an independent panel named by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that there are some issues in the industry that require “urgent action“.

The review follows several incidents of “close calls” that saw passenger airliners fly too close to each other, almost resulting in catastrophic crashes.

The 52-page report released by the panel show that the air safety industry is suffering from a critical lack of air traffic controllers, as well outdated technology and systems. These issues, combined with a lack of funding in some key aspects of air safety, threaten the safety of passengers and aircraft in the U.S.

Michael Huerta, a former FAA administrator and chair of the panel, said that the FAA has been “asked to do more with less” for years, and the number of close calls this year – which are also being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board – is a result of that practice.

The report showed that the communications system used by the FAA has been outdated for years, which has hindered the agency from getting spare parts of repairs. This in turn compounds the problem even further, the report said, as facilities are often forced to make do with broken equipment.

The report said that there is a definite limit to what the agency can accomplish given its “inadequate, obsolete, and unreliable” facilities. And not only the technology was lacking – many of the facilities suffered from infrastructure problems as well, such as leaking roofs and air conditioning and heating systems that have fallen into disrepair. Even the surveillance systems in many of these facilities were found to be too old to be in use in this day and age.

The “confluence of these challenges”, the report said, has resulted in an “erosion in the margin of safety” in national air safety, which has now made the “current level of safety (in the U.S.) unsustainable.”

The solution recommended by the report was for policymakers and lawmakers to “work together collaboratively” in order to provide the appropriate amount of funding to the FAA. Such funding, however, has been hampered, according to the report, by “gridlocks” and political posturing in government.

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