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GAO Report Finds Increase in Runway Safety Incidents

Photo: Andrew Breeden

The number of safety errors made by air traffic controllers involving flights near U.S. airports doubled between fiscal 2008 and 2011, the Government Accountability Office said.

In a report released Thursday, GAO said the Federal Aviation Administration has not met related performance goals but credited the agency with taking steps to reduce hazards.

The FAA has encouraged employees to report errors, which may be attributed to the increase in incidents, according to an agency statement posted on Bloomberg.

“More information will help us find problems and take action before an accident happens, which will help us build an even safer aviation system,” the statement said.

GAO said the employee reports may have contributed to the increase, but also said trends may also indicate an increase in safety incidents.

Air-traffic error rates at facilities directing traffic within 40 miles of large airports increased to 22.6 per million flights from 8.5 over the period studied, GAO said. The rate of similar errors at airport towers increased by 53 percent.

These errors occur when airplanes fly too close to each other because of controller direction.

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