Acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator Billy Nolen announced that he is forming a safety review team to look into the aviation system following a handful of close calls.
"We are experiencing the safest period in aviation history, but we cannot take this for granted," Nolen wrote in a memo. "Recent events remind us that we must not become complacent. Now is the time to stare into the data and ask hard questions."
The review team, according to Nolen, will examine the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems and integration of safety efforts. In March, Nolen plans to hold a Safety Summit "to examine what additional actions the aviation community needs to take to maintain our safety record."
Nolen said that part of the focus will be on examining data to "see whether there are other incidents that resemble ones we have seen in recent weeks" and "if there are indicators of emerging trends."
UNITED FLIGHT THAT DOVE WITHIN 800 FEET OF SEA ONE OF RECENT FLIGHT CLOSE CALLS
The incidents he is referring to are the recent close calls involving planes at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Austin, Texas, and off the coast of Hawaii.
In Austin, a FedEx cargo plane flew over the top of a departing Southwest Airlines flight. Both planes had been cleared to use the same runway. The FedEx pilots aborted their landing just in time to avoid a collision.
Nolen said the incident is still under review by his agency and the National Transportation Safety Board, but he suggested that the fact the planes did not collide shows that the nation’s airspace is safe.
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However, before that, a close call occurred on John F. Kennedy International Airport runway in January when an American Airlines plane was crossing a runway and another plane, operated by Delta Air Lines, was preparing for takeoff.
The Delta jet stopped about 1,000 feet from where the American Airlines plane had crossed from an adjacent taxiway, according to the FAA statement.
Meanwhile, in December, a United Airlines plane descended to within less than 800 feet of the ocean surface after taking off from Hawaii.
The incidents at JFK and off the coast of Hawaii are also being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
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Nolen said in the memo that the review team will also responsible for looking for opportunities to strengthen the connection between the Air Traffic Organization and the FAA Aviation Safety organization for monitoring and addressing of safety risks.
"I know that all of you share my goal to do what is necessary to keep our organization strong, effective and well-prepared to take on the safety challenges of the future," Nolen wrote. "We know that our aviation system is changing dramatically. Now is the time to act."
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.