Airline industry continues to grapple with safety concerns

(The Center Square) – Various aviation and airline executives and experts spoke Wednesday on safety in the industry at an event hosted by POLITICO.

Speakers included Bob Jordan, CEO of Southwest Airlines, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans. and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Whitaker and other executives from the airline industry.

“The most important thing for the well being of the aviation industry is to make sure that when we fly, we’re safe,” Moran said. Moran is a ranking member on the Subcommittee for Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation.

The event comes in the context of a recently passed law that reauthorized various aviation infrastructure and safety programs for the next five years. The law passed the House 387-26 and was signed by President Joe Biden on May 16th.

The Act aims to enhance safety, invest in airport infrastructure, promote aviation innovation, grow the aviation workforce, and improve the passenger experience.

“The bill will enhance the FAA’s efficiency and the overall passenger experience, while encouraging domestic innovation in aviation,” Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Sam Graves said in a press release.

The bill also introduces the first-ever general aviation title and streamlines FAA operations to support future advancements.

Recent incidents have raised questions about safety in the industry.

On May 30, two planes nearly collided on the runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. A similar incident occurred less than a month before.

Boeing specifically has come under scrutiny for lax safety management in manufacturing. In January, a plane door plug came loose mid-flight, resulting in an immediate grounding of 171 Boeing 737s.

Whitaker said he toured Boeing’s factory floor and observed a focus on production but a lack of a culture on safety and quality.

“Across the board, there needs to be a change in culture,” Whitaker said. “We need to have a more robust and effective safety management system.”

Whitaker also spoke on staffing shortages among air traffic controllers.

“We’ve made pretty drastic increases in hiring, but we’ve got a pretty big hole to dig out of,” he added.

Whitaker mentioned he expects relief in the shortage after 18 months, after new controllers are trained.

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