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Congress: Government failures could result in runway crashes

Yesterday, investigators from Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) said travelers face a serious risk of being involved in a runway collision because of the government’s failure to install reliable safety technologies and address the persistent dilemma of overworked air traffic controllers. The GAO pointed to a lack of leadership and uncoordinated efforts by the government as the root cause of the problem.

The GAO report said that after the FAA made some improvements earlier this decade, “the FAA’s runway safety efforts subsequently waned” and now “the rate of runway incursions has not decreased over the last five years.” The GAO also said the FAA has failed to collect sufficient data on certain types of runway accidents that could be used to help prevent future incidents.

“This report makes clear that the Bush administration is cutting corners and failing to put passenger safety first,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) said, according to the AP. “The FAA is taking too many chances and ignoring too many red flags.”

While there have been no major accidents in the U.S. this year there have been a number of close calls. In one incident in August, two jets on a runway at Los Angles International came within just 37 feet of hitting each other.

The GAO and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association called on the FAA to address runway safety issues that could lead to accidents in the future, but it’s still too early tell how they will proceed. Considering the size of the issue and the government’s handling of the country’s other major problems, an FAA overhaul may become a project for the next administration.

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