The following are the statements of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Thomas E. Petri (R-WI) regarding the incident that occurred Tuesday afternoon at Washington Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC:
"Such near misses and any operational errors are calls to action," Mica said. "I'm asking our Aviation Subcommittee staff and FAA to thoroughly review what happened."
"As a frequent flyer, the incident at Reagan National Airport certainly captured my attention," said Petri. "The Aviation Subcommittee held a safety hearing in April 2012 and monitors air safety issues on an ongoing basis. We get regular briefings from the FAA on operational errors and continue to explore ways to improve the system. It is alarming every time we have a close call, but airline travel in the U.S. has an excellent safety record. Safety will continue to improve as we proceed with the modernization of the air traffic control system which is already underway."
Just after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the FAA initiated a change in the traffic flow at Reagan National Airport (DCA) due to bad weather developing south of the airport. During the switchover of operations, a miscommunication between FAA air traffic control facilities led to a loss of the required separation between two regional jets departing from DCA and an inbound regional jet. Preliminary information indicates that the closest proximity was 1.45 nm lateral and 500 ft. vertical for the first departing plane and 2.42 nm lateral and 600 ft. vertical for the second plane.
This incident and other recent performance failures are matters of serious concern. Following similar incidents in 2011, the FAA has provided regular monthly briefings to Committee staff on operational errors and deviations. Additionally, the Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on aviation safety in April and Chairman Mica and Chairman Petri have tasked the Department of Transportation's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office with investigating operational errors and runway incursions.
Mica and Petri pledged that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would review the matter and continue rigorous oversight of the FAA's air traffic control operation. They directed Committee staff to gather information regarding the Reagan National Airport incident and any other missteps in the nation's vital air traffic control system, and to closely monitor FAA's actions to address any problems discovered.