WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers and experts are raising alarms around close calls and near misses at airports across the country.
“Rather than watering down existing safety standards, we must always be looking to enhance aviation safety,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said.
Duckworth said mistakes by air traffic control, flight crews or ground personnel happen partly because of a lack of rest.
“Is it time for FAA and Congress to re-examine and update rest rules that are tailored to optimize air traffic controller performance,” Duckworth asked.
“You have people working mandatory overtime, six days a week, ten-hour days,” Jennifer Homendy, National Transportation Safety Board chair said.
Experts said long hours under hard and stressful working conditions, make it difficult for the FAA to keep enough air traffic controllers on the job.
“Has exasperated the situation resulting in 1000 fewer controllers in this elevated aviation upturn,” Rich Santa, National Air Traffic Controller Association president said.
Many Republicans, like Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), are echoing calls for change, especially with holiday travel around the corner.
“What can I tell my constituents and Americans about what to expect this holiday season,” Moran asked.
“My counterparts across the airlines — they are in a much better position as far as their overall staffing, their operational control and the amount of coordination they do with the FAA,” Air Traffic Organization COO Timothy Arel said.
Experts are warning lawmakers that failure to address ongoing staff shortages and fatigue could turn a near miss, into a disaster.