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Tue, Jun 11, 2024

Near-Collision in Austin Cited as Poster Child for Full-Size Crew

ALPA Says Economics of Single Pilot Operation Just Aren't Worth the Safety Cost

A recent update to the NTSB docket regarding a runway incursion added to the canon of recent near-hits in the industry, and the Air Line Pilots Association says it's a reminder of the vital importance of keeping two pilots on deck.

Jason Ambrosi, president of the ALPA, took a moment to comment on the final investigative report regarding the near-collision between FedEx Flight 1432 and Southwest Flight 708 on February 4th, 2023. In addressing the ALPA board, Ambrosi used the incident as a perfect case study regarding the added safety margins of a two-pilot cockpit. In the incident, the SWA plane was cleared to take off from Runway 18L while FedEx was coming in for landing. SWA lined up on the active and begin an engine run-up in place, going through their checklist items while the FedEx aircraft was only 1 1/2 miles and closing. The weather was quite fogged over, the NTSB notes, and Austin-Bergstrom International had no surface detection equipment to assist the tower in tracking aircraft in low visibility. Luckily, the FedEx pilots spotted the outline of Southwest through the fog and went missed, coming within a plane's breadth of hitting each other. It's a fitting story to cite, since the only reliable way to break the accident chain once the aircraft were in place had to come by way of the good old mark-I eyeball for everyone involved. A single-pilot operation could be done, but that single operator will be much busier alone, and the chances of having eyes out the windows drop accordingly.

“For months," Ambrosi (pictured) said, "ALPA has been sounding the alarm on the ongoing efforts by some aircraft manufacturers to remove pilots from the flight deck and replace them with automation. Today’s NTSB Board meeting highlighted the critical importance of having two highly trained, well-rested pilots on the flight deck. I commend the FedEx crew for their extraordinary efforts to avert disaster and thank the NTSB for its thorough investigation. I echo Chair Homendy’s comments about how the FedEx crew, working together and utilizing their extensive experience and all the resources available, saved the lives of the 128 people onboard Southwest Flight 708."

“Today’s discussion makes it crystal clear that lowering safety standards by removing pilots from the flight deck is not acceptable. ALPA has a decades-long history of welcoming and helping to implement new technology that maintains or improves aviation safety and security. But using technology to put profits ahead of safety just won’t fly—and nor should it. The United States has the safest aviation system in the world, and we should be doing everything in our power to build on that success and reject any and all efforts to take our industry back in time.”

FMI: www.ntsb.gov
 

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