U.S. FAA forms safety review team after near miss incidents
WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is forming a team of experts to review airline safety after several recent near miss incidents raised questions about the U.S. aviation system.
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen in a "call to action" memo on Tuesday seen by Reuters said the safety review team will "examine the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts."
The FAA will hold a safety summit in March to examine what additional actions "the aviation community needs to take to maintain our safety record."
Nolen, who is set to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, said a group of commercial and general aviation leaders, labor partners, and others "will examine which mitigations are working and why others appear to be not as effective as they once were."
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating a series of serious close calls including a near collision last month between FedEx (FDX.N) and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) planes in Austin and a runway incursion at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
On Tuesday, the NTSB said it would investigate a Dec. 18 incident in which United Airlines (UAL.O) Flight 777, a Boeing (BA.N) 777 jet, lost significant altitude before recovering shortly after departing Kahului, Hawaii.
In January, the FAA halted all departing passenger airline flights for nearly two hours because of a computer outage, the first nationwide ground stop of its kind since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The United States has not had a major fatal U.S. passenger airline crash since February 2009.
"We are experiencing the safest period in aviation history, but we cannot take this for granted," Nolen wrote. "Recent events remind us that we must not become complacent. Now is the time to stare into the data and ask hard questions."
Nolen asked the FAA Commercial Aviation Safety Team to take a new look at Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing data "to see whether there are other incidents that resemble ones we have seen in recent weeks."
The review team will focus on the Air Traffic Organization and assess its internal processes, systems, and operational integration, Nolen said.
Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson praised Nolen's announcement.
"U.S. aviation is the safest transportation system in the world. But we cannot ever rest. It takes constant vigilance and engagement of all stakeholders in our collective responsibility to safety," Nelson said.
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