US FAA presses aviation industry to eliminate 'close calls'


By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - The acting head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday the aviation industry must work to eliminate near-miss incidents that have triggered recent safety concerns.

"Going forward, zero has to be the only acceptable number for serious incidents and close calls," said Billy Nolen, the FAA's acting administrator. Six serious runway incursions since January prompted the agency to convene a safety summit earlier this month.

"Air travel is coming back in a big way since the pandemic. But the long layoff, coupled with the increased technical nature of our systems, might have caused some professionals to lose some of that muscle memory," Nolen said at an industry meeting in Baltimore.

The FAA said last week that it was taking steps to improve its air traffic control operations. "There is no question that we are seeing too many close calls," Tim Arel, chief operating officer of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, said in a message to employees at that time.

Facing an air traffic control staffing shortage, the FAA wants funding for more hiring. Rich Santa, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said at the safety summit earlier this month that there are 1,200 fewer certified air traffic controllers than a decade ago.

The FAA agreed to requests from Delta Air Lines DAL.N and United Airlines UAL.O to temporarily return up to 10% of slots and flights at those airports.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Paul Simao)

((David.Shepardson@thomsonreuters.com; 2028988324;))

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