CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Leaders around the nation gathered Wednesday to address safety issues at U.S. airports.
The meeting comes after a series of near-collisions, including in Texas where a cargo plane narrowly missed a passenger flight, after being cleared to use the same runway.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined leaders with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and others for the impromptu safety summit after, they said, at least half a dozen incidents were reported in recent months.
"We can’t wait for the next catastrophic event to seek the warning signs of today," Buttigieg said in the meeting.
The close-calls have surfaced in multiple states including New York and Hawaii.
In January, a plane was preparing for takeoff in New York when another was crossing the runway.
In December, a plane took a steep drop toward the ocean before climbing again near Hawaii.
"More mistakes than usual are happening across the system," Buttigieg said. "On runways, at gates when planes are pushing back, in control towers, and on flight decks.”
While flights are generally safe, leaders hope the summit will help prevent collisions from happening, addressing staffing challenges, training and outdated technology.
Others called on Congress to help with the issue by providing more funds.
"We are here… to deliver for the flying public," FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said. "We are absolutely committed to it.”
North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams, who represents the Charlotte area, said she's open to hearing proposals noting a need for airlines to also prioritize worker pay.
In a statement. she said, in part, "U.S. aviation must be about safety first. That idea has made American aviation one of the safest ways to travel in the world and it’s one reason why President Biden was able to announce another historic purchase of Boeing aircraft this week. However, we can always do better, so I am open to hearing ways Congress can improve safety in the skies, in the cabin, and on the tarmac."
She went on to say, "We can’t forget our airports and our airplane cabins are also a workplace. This workplace should be safe for passengers and employees alike, and airlines must make sure our airline and airport employees are compensated in a way that reflects their critical role in our transportation and safety.”
Congressman Jeff Jackson, who also represents the Charlotte area, said he would consider increasing aviation funding if what's requested is necessary to fix the issues.
WCNC Charlotte reached out to the FAA for details on any near-collisions at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for 2022 or 2023. In a statement March 20, the agency said there were no such incidents in the past two years.