Austin airport to receive new safety systems after several near-misses

New aviation safety systems are coming to the Austin airport following the passage of a new law. This comes after concerns following multiple near misses.

Senator Ted Cruz said this bill is a direct response to aviation issues, including several in Austin.

On Feb. 14, 2023, a Southwest flight was cleared for takeoff from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as a FedEx cargo plane was about to land on the same runway. They missed each other by about 70 feet.

"Our nation is experiencing an aviation safety crisis," U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said in November 2023.

The incident at ABIA was mentioned during the drafting of the bipartisan-supported Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.

"Look, there are times when the legislative process doesn't work. There are times when you have gridlock in Washington, but this was an example, really, I think, a model for how the legislative process should work," U.S. Senator Ted Cruz said.

The bill authorizes more than $105 billion for the FAA and $738 million for the National Transportation Safety Board through fiscal year 2028.

"When you think about flying, the number one priority has to be safety," Senator Cruz said.

The legislation increases the cockpit voice recording time, includes finds to hire more air traffic controllers and technical engineers, provides improvement grants for airports to help meet their increasing demand, and includes advanced runway safety equipment.

"That equipment will be on the runway, so the air traffic controllers have the sensors to know before a near miss occurs," Senator Cruz said.

The runway equipment is set to be installed at the Austin airport in July.

ABIA reported at least four near misses last year, including planes missing each other by just a few feet or coming too close on the runway.

Senator Cruz said another issue is the pilot shortage, and he pushed to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67, but it didn’t pass. He said he plans to continue to work on that provision.