For months now, headlines have delivered a relentless parade of tough news for nervous fliers: a runway near miss between two planes here, a midflight battery fire there, severe turbulence that projects passengers out of their seats, a 1,400-foot plunge toward the Pacific Ocean, yet another attack on a flight attendant. And then close call after close call on the tarmac.
As observers respond with bafflement — “Another one? Didn’t this just happen?” — the Federal Aviation Administration is taking note. Air travel experts convened Wednesday in Northern Virginia to “examine and address recent safety concerns” as part of a broader review. Several members of the panel pointed to turnover of the industry’s labor force as a potential safety risk.
“We are experiencing the safest period in aviation history, but we cannot take this for granted,” acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen wrote in a memo last month. “Recent events remind us that we must not become complacent. Now is the time to stare into the data and ask hard questions.”
But some data suggests an upward trend: The number of smoke, fire or extreme heat events linked to lithium ion batteries on passenger or cargo planes reached a high of 62 last year, even before counting December.