Every day we are getting closer to a major air disaster. In recent years, the number of close calls of an airport accident has increased dramatically. In the last year alone there were 300 events in which two commercial airliners almost collided. Just one of these could cost the lives of countless people.
The reason for this is not unknown. Almost all of the events have been due to human error by air traffic controllers, caused by strenuous working conditions and dramatic understaffing. This shortage dates back to the 1980s when the Reagan administration replaced thousands of controllers who were on strike. On top of this, most airports have failed to install the latest warning systems to prevent accidents on the runway. Air traffic controllers have warned that the situation has reached a point where it is only a matter of time before a serious incident occurs.
Despite the threat of an airline disaster, the situation is not changing. The few efforts that are being made are slow and unfocused. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airline companies keep saying that everything is fine, given that there are no accidents yet. In other words, there will be no substantial changes until a major crash occurs. The problem is that the decisions are made not based on safety, but on cost-cutting and profit. And the government looks after the interests of business before it pays attention to the rest of us.
The real way to solve this is to put decisions in the hands of the real experts, the skilled air traffic controllers who do the day-to-day work and know the risks — the same ones who warned us of the danger. We should listen to them and their warnings now.