FAA Establishes Independent Safety Review Panel

The team of aviation stakeholders was formed to make air traffic safety recommendations following a string of close calls.

The FAA named an independent review team to make recommendations on air safety following a string of close calls at U.S. airports, the agency announced Wednesday.

The FAA National Airspace System Safety Review Team has been tasked with examining and presenting recommendations for ways the agency can advance air traffic safety, the agency said.

The new panel is composed of industry stakeholders, including former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, former Air Line Pilots Association President Tim Canoll, and former National Transportation Safety Board Chair Robert Sumwalt.

“We are committed to maintaining the safest period in U.S. aviation history,” noted Acting Administrator Billy Nolen. “This team will strengthen our ongoing safety efforts and identify specific investments we can make to bolster the National Airspace System.” 

Several recent incidents, six of which are currently under investigation by the NTSB, prompted the formation of the safety panel. It also comes about a month after the FAA issued a “safety call to action” urging carriers and industry players to maintain vigilance at airports.

According to the FAA, the Safety Review Team will begin its work in May and complete its recommendations by October 2023. Additionally, the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization has taken action by ensuring supervisors give their full attention to the operation and airfield during peak traffic times at each facility.

Adding to issues is the shortage of air traffic controllers. 

In March, Richard Santa, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, testified before Congress, saying, “Despite meeting its self-imposed air traffic controller hiring goals for much of the past decade, the FAA has not kept up with attrition. The NAS remains near a 30-year low in the number of fully certified controllers.”

However, the FAA is taking steps to address the understaffing. The agency announced its hiring window will open May 5-8. It plans to hire roughly 1,500 controllers in 2023 and an additional 1,800 next year as it catches up on pandemic-related training backlogs.

Meanwhile, the FAA is also tasked with finding a new leader as Nolen recently announced his plans to depart the agency this summer, and President Biden’s pick to head the agency, Phil Washington, withdrew his nomination last month. The FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since March 2022.


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