Friday, March 02, 2018

Editorial: Five San Francisco International Airport (KSFO) near-misses in 14 months require action; federal crackdown needed before hundreds of airline passengers die on the tarmac

By Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards

If the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board don’t take action, hundreds of people are going to die on the runway of a U.S. airport. It’s just a matter of time before luck runs out.

In a little more than a year, there have been five near-misses at San Francisco International Airport alone, one of which could have wiped out nearly 1,000 lives.

The problem is getting worse. In congressional testimony Tuesday, a federal government auditor revealed that the annual number of runway “incursions” increased nearly 83 percent from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2017.

Worse, the increase in incursions — incidents involving unauthorized aircraft, vehicles or people on a runway — comes despite a series of FAA initiatives starting in 2007 to reduce them.

It isn’t working.

The FAA, NTSB, Congress and the Trump administration need to stop coddling pilots, close regulatory loopholes and require preservation of cockpit voice recorders from every incident. It’s time to require that airlines, airports and the federal government invest in the best preventive technology for averting these near-disasters.

If they fail to act, if they allow this rapidly increasing problem to go unaddressed, we will inevitably be asking someday why they didn’t prevent the deaths of hundreds of passengers.

For seven months now, Bay Area News Group investigative reporter Matthias Gafni has been highlighting runway near misses, including five here in the Bay Area at San Francisco International Airport.

• An Aeromexico plane on Jan. 9 came within seven-tenths of a mile of landing on a runway where another aircraft was waiting for takeoff. The Aeromexico passenger jet dropped to as low as 250 feet before aborting its landing.

• An Air Canada plane landed at SFO on Oct. 22 despite repeated orders to abort because of concerns another plane had not cleared the runway.

• An Air Canada plane nearly landed July 7 on a SFO taxiway where four fully loaded planes awaited takeoff.  It came within a few seconds and only a few dozen feet of a devastating impact that could have wiped out nearly 1,000 lives.

• A Compass Airlines plane on Feb. 15, 2017, was cleared to land on the same runway where another aircraft had been cleared to wait for take-off. The Airport Surface Detection System radar alerted the tower and the Compass flight aborted its landing.

• A SkyWest Airlines flight on Dec. 14, 2016, entered the runway as a jet taking off raced past.

SFO is not alone:

• In Atlanta, a Delta Air Lines plane nearly landed Nov. 29 on a taxiway occupied by a fully loaded jetliner. The plane dropped to 60 feet above the ground before aborting its landing.

• In Pullman, Wash, a Horizon Air flight on Dec. 29 whizzed past four fuel tankers and ground crew as it landed on a narrow taxiway rather than the runway where it should have been.

Let’s hope luck doesn’t run out before the bureaucrats and politicians in Washington act.

Original article can be found here ➤

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