Sinema Calls for Serious Aviation Safety Improvements in Senate Hearing Examining Close Calls & Near Misses

Nov 17, 2023

For an MP3 soundbite, click HERE.

Sinema pointed to her proposed pilot training amendment as an opportunity to strengthen safety and innovation to help pilots and air traffic controllers avoid future near misses

WASHINGTON – In a U.S. Senate Aviation Subcommittee hearing, Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema called for serious improvements to aviation safety in light of the alarming increase of near misses and close calls throughout the year. 

Sinema highlighted how strengthening and better preparing the Air Traffic Control workforce and offering pilots credit for simulated experiences with close calls – as her bipartisan amendment to the FAA Reauthorization legislation would permit – will help reduce the number of near misses, give passengers peace of mind, and ensure the United States remains the “Gold Standard” of aviation safety. Sinema’s amendment is backed by eight former FAA Administrators and two former Presidents of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA).

“The number of near misses makes it clear that now is the time to act to improve safety. It is unacceptable to wait for a tragedy to force us into action,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. 

In July alone, U.S. commercial airlines experienced a record 46 close calls. Runway incursions are 25% higher than they were 10 years ago, and there are 1,200 less certified professional air traffic controllers than there were a decade ago.

During the hearing, Sinema noted that aviation officials have acknowledged how essential advanced simulator technology is for training air traffic controllers because it allows hands-on training for emergencies and unforeseen events without endangering actual aircraft. Sinema’s bipartisan amendment to the FAA Reauthorization legislation would improve aviation safety by allowing the FAA to investigate and approve ways to make pilot training more diverse, practical, and robust, such as crediting the use of tested and proven advanced simulator training as part of a comprehensive pilot training regime.

In September, eight former FAA Administrators and two former Presidents of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) – including former FAA Administrator Randy Babbit, who testified at the hearing in support of Sinema’s amendment – highlighted how the adoption of tested and trusted new technologies will strengthen American airspace safety in a letter to U.S. Senate and House committee leaders.

In October, during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Sinema highlighted the need for the FAA Administrator to have true and tested aviation expertise – noting nominee Michael Whitaker’s breath of experience in aviation safety, operations, and management. Sinema voted in favor in Whitacker’s successful Senate confirmation as FAA Administrator.