F.A.A. Spends $100 Million to Help Prevent Runway Accidents3 min read
The Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday that it had awarded more than $100 million to a dozen airports to help prevent accidents after a series of near collisions this year. The money is intended to reduce “incursions,” in which planes, vehicles and people mistakenly occupy or obstruct runways.
The money will fund changes that include building new paths, or taxiways, for planes to move around airports and the installation of lights to help better guide pilots. Tucson International Airport will receive the largest award, about $33 million, to build a taxiway and rebuild a runway. San Diego International Airport will receive $24 million to build a new taxiway.
“Sometimes the best technology is concrete, and that’s why some of what you’re seeing are the construction of these end-around taxiways that mean one less potential conflict point where a plane lines up,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Why It Matters: Incursions have subsided but remain a concern.
The announcement comes as runway incursions have fallen after a spike at the start of the year. On Tuesday, the F.A.A. said that the rate of the most concerning kinds of incursions had risen in January to one for every one million takeoffs and landings, but that it had since been cut in half.
A series of jarring incursions early in the year received widespread attention. In one incident at Kennedy International Airport, in New York, a plane had to abort taking off because another had crossed dangerously close to it. In another episode, at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas, a pilot had to abort landing because another plane was using the runway to take off.
In March, the F.A.A. held a safety summit to address the incursions and other safety concerns. It also issued a bulletin to airlines, airport operators and workers, calling on carriers to exercise caution in carrying out operations. The National Transportation Safety Board is holding an event on Tuesday to discuss incursions.
There have been about 550 runway incursions this year through April, up slightly from 530 during the same period last year, according to the F.A.A.
Background: The aviation system has had many problems.
Runway incursions have become a problem as people move on from the pandemic and spend more money on travel and other services that they avoided during the past few years.
But as demand has increased, airlines and government agencies have struggled to keep up. Around Christmas last year, Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights, stranding millions of travelers, after it failed to recover quickly from disruptions caused by frigid weather. Weeks later, the F.A.A. briefly paused all departures nationwide as it tried to resolve a technical problem.
Many experts have warned that airlines and the F.A.A., which controls the air traffic system, could struggle this summer, when the number of people flying could exceed its prepandemic high. Airline executives and F.A.A. officials have said they have made changes that should minimize disruptions in the coming months.
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Zach Montague contributed reporting.
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