The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday that it has awarded more than $100 million to a dozen airports to help prevent accidents following a series of near misses this year. The money is intended to reduce “incursions” in which planes, vehicles and people mistakenly occupy or block runways.
The money will fund changes including building new ways, or taxiways, for planes to get around airports and installing lights to better guide pilots. Tucson International Airport wins the largest bid, about $33 million, to build a taxiway and rebuild a runway. San Diego International Airport will receive $24 million to build a new runway.
“Sometimes the best technology is concrete, and that’s why one of the things you see is the construction of these perimeter taxiways, which means one less potential conflict point for an airplane to line up,” Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Why it matters: Attacks have decreased, but remain a concern.
The announcement comes as runway incursions have declined after a surge earlier in the year. On Tuesday, the FAA said the rate of the most worrying types of raids rose to one per million takeoffs and landings in January, but that number has since been halved.
A series of harrowing assaults earlier in the year drew widespread attention. In an incident at Kennedy International Airport in New York, a plane had to abort take-off after another plane got dangerously close. In another episode, a pilot at Austin Bergstrom International Airport in Texas had to abort a landing because another plane was using the runway for takeoff.
In March, the FAA held a safety summit to address the break-ins and other safety concerns. A bulletin was also issued to airlines, airport operators and employees, urging airlines to exercise caution when conducting operations. The National Transportation Safety Board is hosting an event Tuesday to discuss abuses.
According to the FAA, there were about 550 runway incursions through April this year, up slightly from 530 in the same period last year
background: The aviation system had many problems.
The runway disruption problem arises as demand for air travel has increased as people emerge from the pandemic and are spending more money on travel and other services they have avoided in recent years.
However, as demand has increased, airlines and government agencies are struggling to keep up. Around Christmas last year, Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights and left millions of travelers behind after failing to recover quickly from disruptions caused by the cold weather. Weeks later, the FAA briefly suspended all departures across the country to address a technical issue.
Many experts have warned that airlines and the FAA, which controls the air travel system, could face difficulties this summer if the number of people flying could exceed their pre-pandemic peak. Airline executives and FAA officials said they’ve made changes that should minimize disruption in the coming months.
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Zach Montague contributed to the coverage.