The pilot behind the Miracle on the Hudson has warned that six close calls on runways this year are due to a lack of flight time during the pandemic.
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who now works as an aviation safety expert, said the close calls at US airports are “the canaries in the coal mine.”
“We’ve lost a lot of our flies and the recovery from Covid has been faster than many expected — so we’ve fallen short in a lot of important ways and in terms of staffing,” Sullenberger told the Today Show.
“The workforce problem would benefit from secure, multi-year funding so that we can anticipate … we can recruit, hire and train air traffic controllers and maintenance technicians and others and get them in place before we need them and not play a catch up.”
It comes after two United Airlines planes clipped their wings during the runaway at Boston Logan International Airport on Monday — just a week after air traffic controllers were forced to intervene at the same airport when a JetBlue plane threatened to hit a departing private jet. Near misses are also being investigated by the federal government in Austin, Burbank, JFK and Honolulu.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who now works as an aviation safety expert, said the close calls at US airports are “the canaries in the coal mine”
BOSTON, MARCH 1: An airliner was pushed backwards out of its bay Monday morning when its right wing collided with the horizontal tailplane at the rear of an adjacent aircraft. In the photo, the two planes are in contact
AUSTIN, FEBRUARY 5: A FedEx cargo plane nearly crashed into a departing Southwest flight on February 4 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas
Sullenberger said the safety shortcomings were a sign of complacency.
“We have become victims of our own success, we have to remind ourselves literally every day that – even as air travel has become ultra-safe and routine – we are actually pushing a tube full of people through the air. upper atmosphere seven or eight miles above Earth at 80 percent of the speed of sound in a hostile environment with outside air temperatures down to -70 and air pressure a quarter of that at the surface and we have to return it safely every time,” he said.
He called on Congress to provide more money to the FAA and to US airport infrastructure so that “we don’t do Band-Aids anymore.”
He also said the FAA needed administrators who are “confirmed and not a series of acting administrators.”
The FAA has been under acting leadership since April as the nation’s aviation system has suffered not only dangerous close calls, but serious travel delays and a collapse of a pilot warning system in January that brought the country’s airspace to a standstill .
Joe Biden tapped Denver International Airport CEO Phillip Washington to head the federal agency, but critics say he is unqualified.
Washington has not been a commercial pilot, unlike predecessors including Steve Dickson, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2019, and current acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz lashed out at Washington last week at a meeting of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, claiming he was treating the FAA administrator position as a “patron job.”
“He has no aviation safety experience,” Cruz said. “This is simply a position for which he is not suited.”
The committee will vote in the coming weeks.
JFK, JANUARY 13: There was panic at JFK in New York when a Delta jet had to abort its takeoff after a near miss with an American Airlines plane. An air traffic controller was heard saying ‘S**t!’ seeing that the American plane had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, he ordered the other plane, “Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance!”
It comes amid a spate of ongoing FAA investigations into runway accidents that are worrying passengers across the country.
Air traffic controllers were forced to stop a descending JetBlue flight that threatened to collide with a departing private jet on Feb. 27. According to Flightradar24 data, the two planes came within 600 feet of each other.
The previous week at California’s Burbank airport, a Mesa Airlines CRJ900 landing aborted because a SkyWest Embraer E175 took off from the same runway. It is not clear how close they came to a collision.
A Southwest airliner and a FedEx cargo jet came within 100 feet of a collision at the Austin airport on Feb. 5. In shocking cockpit audio, the FedEx pilot was heard radioing the other crew, “Southwest abort, FedEx is on its way.”
On January 23, there was an incident at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Hawaii involving a United Airlines 777 jet and a smaller cargo plane. The United jet crossed the runway as the other plane landed, less than 400 meters away.
On January 13, panic broke out at New York’s JFK when a Delta jet had to abort its takeoff after a near miss with an American Airlines plane.
An air traffic controller was heard saying ‘S**t!’ seeing that the American aircraft had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, he ordered the other aircraft, “Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance!”
Air traffic controllers “noted another aircraft crossing the runway ahead of the departing jet,” the FAA said in a statement. “According to preliminary analysis, Delta Air Lines Flight 1943 stopped its takeoff roll approximately 300 feet before reaching the point where American Airlines Flight 106, a Boeing 777, had crossed over from an adjacent taxiway.”