Washington, DC — On Friday, four safety measures authored by Congressman DeSaulnier (CA-11) to help prevent runway accidents were signed into law as part of the bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years.
Between 2011 and 2017, the U.S. has seen an 83 percent increase in runway incursions, as well as a series of high profile near misses across the country and in Congressman DeSaulnier’s backyard at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 302) makes necessary safety improvements, modernizes airports, and improves the passenger flying experience. H.R. 302 is the first long-term reauthorization of the agency since 2012.
“As a frequent flyer, I feel fortunate that our nation’s air travel system is safe and the number of accidents have steadily declined in recent years. However, the recent rise in near-miss incidents across the country has given us reason to pause and evaluate if we are doing all we can to prevent accidents before a catastrophe occurs,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “Our safety provisions will address some of the challenges that contributed to high profile close calls and are a step in the right direction. Regardless, there is still more work to be done, and I am currently drafting legislation that will address remaining gaps in aviation safety.”
DeSaulnier’s amendments included in H.R. 302 would improve the use of technology and data to support the work of pilots, air traffic controllers, and FAA safety inspectors to ensure safe landings through:
- Better Alerts to Air Traffic Controllers: Requiring the FAA to review ways to expand and improve the use of technology that can alert air traffic controllers when an airplane is improperly aligned before landing. Following the July 7th Air Canada incident, SFO’s air traffic control made changes to its use of this equipment, and this change should be explored at other airports.
- Audible Notifications to Pilots: Assessing the benefits of equipping all aircraft with systems that provide an audible alert to pilots, notifying them of their alignments as they are nearing a runway.
- Reducing Risks Associated with Power Outages: Protecting key systems, such as communication, navigation, and surveillance systems, from disruption caused by a power outage or other similar unforeseen circumstances. The December 29, 2017 Horizon Air taxiway landing at Pullman-Moscow airport was likely compounded by a power outage that caused the runway lights to fail, and the status of runway lights at SFO on the night of July 7th may have added to the confusion of the Air Canada pilots.
- Improving Data Analysis for Safety: Requiring an updated review of an FAA program for analyzing data for identifying safety issues and recommending actions before accidents occur.
In review of the July 7th near miss incident at SFO, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted on the probable cause of the close call and put forth several safety recommendations. Congressman DeSaulnier’s amendments included in H.R. 302 incorporate many of NTSB’s recommendations. Additionally, Mark is drafting legislation to address other gaps in aviation safety and to analyze human factors that could contribute to near misses.
In February, DeSaulnier led a request with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review data on safety incidents and the FAA’s framework for responding to such incidents. The GAO has accepted their request, and began preliminary work this week. The final report is expected to be issued in the Spring of 2019.