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FAA Probes Potential Near Miss Incident Between Two Airliners at Portland Airport


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently investigating a concerning incident that occurred at Portland International Airport in Oregon last Monday, where two commercial airliners narrowly avoided a potential collision during heavy rain. The incident involved an urgent air traffic controller issuing instructions to the crew of an Alaska Airlines flight, redirecting them away from a nearby SkyWest flight.

The FAA provided a statement, explaining, “While attempting to land at Portland International Airport, the pilot of Alaska Airlines Flight 1299 initiated a go-around due to wind and turned towards SkyWest Airlines Flight 3978, which had just departed. An air traffic controller instructed the Alaska Airlines pilot to turn away from the SkyWest aircraft.” Publicly available flight tracking data indicates that both flights were climbing from parallel runways – the SkyWest flight taking off from runway 28 Right, and the Alaska Airlines flight attempting to land on runway 28 Left.

Aviation weather reports from the time highlight poor visibility and heavy rain, contributing to the challenging conditions. The FAA, in its investigation, aims to determine the closest proximity between the two aircraft. Flight tracking data from FlightAware reveals that the Alaska flight, originating from John Wayne Airport in California, ultimately diverted to Roberts Field in Redmond, Oregon, while the SkyWest flight proceeded to land in Seattle as planned.

In response to a series of close calls reported this year, the FAA has been taking steps to enhance safety protocols for air traffic controllers. The increase in air travel following the decline during the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened concerns about safety, prompting officials, including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, to address the root causes of such incidents. Buttigieg emphasized the need for collaboration within the industry to address the uptick in reported issues, describing it as a kind of "rust" affecting pilots, ground crews, and controllers alike.

As the FAA continues its investigation, CNN has reached out to the National Transportation Safety Board, Alaska Airlines, and SkyWest for further comments on the incident. The incident underscores the importance of ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance safety measures within the aviation industry.

"We refuse to wait until a more severe incident occurs; action is imperative now," declared Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. In response to Buttigieg's proactive stance, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Air Traffic Organization swiftly issued a memorandum outlining crucial measures to prevent further close calls. The Chief Operating Officer, Tim Arel, emphasized the urgency, stating unequivocally, "There is no question that we are seeing too many close calls."

The FAA has embarked on a series of initiatives to address the escalating concerns. Safety reviews have been initiated, and air traffic control training has been intensified. Moreover, the agency has committed to funding airport construction projects aimed at mitigating the issue. In April, the National Airspace System Safety Review Team was established, tasked with a comprehensive examination of the air traffic system and the delivery of recommendations for enhancing safety.

June saw the FAA's announcement of mandatory monthly training sessions for thousands of its air traffic controllers, a significant step toward fortifying expertise. The agency has also allocated substantial financial resources to minimize close calls at airports nationwide. A funding injection of $100 million is earmarked for a dozen airports, involving strategic reconfiguration of taxiways, enhanced lighting, and more.

In a recent development, the FAA declared an additional $121 million in funding for similar safety enhancement efforts at eight airports spanning from Florida to Alaska. This commitment underscores the FAA's dedication to implementing tangible changes to secure the skies. Greg Wallace from CNN has contributed valuable insights to this comprehensive report on the FAA's proactive measures to address and rectify the surge in close calls within the aviation sector.

In conclusion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking decisive action in response to a concerning increase in close calls between aircraft. Prompted by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg's commitment to proactive measures, the FAA's Air Traffic Organization has outlined a series of steps to prevent further incidents. Chief Operating Officer Tim Arel acknowledged the urgency of the situation, emphasizing that there is an undeniable increase in close calls.

To address the issue comprehensively, the FAA has initiated safety reviews, intensified air traffic control training, and committed funding to airport construction projects. The establishment of the National Airspace System Safety Review Team underscores the agency's dedication to thoroughly examining and enhancing the air traffic system's safety protocols.

Mandatory monthly training sessions for air traffic controllers represent a crucial investment in fortifying expertise. Financial commitments of $100 million for a dozen airports and an additional $121 million for eight airports across the nation demonstrate the FAA's tangible efforts to minimize close calls. These funds will be strategically used for reconfiguring taxiways, improving lighting, and implementing other safety enhancements.

Overall, the FAA's multifaceted approach, coupled with substantial investments and proactive training initiatives, reflects a commitment to ensuring the safety of the national airspace. The agency's responsiveness to the surge in close calls signals a dedication to addressing root causes and implementing effective solutions to create a safer environment for air travel.