Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen grilled Senator Ted Cruz’s administration about a recent string of airline safety failures and called out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for focusing on “economics” instead of safety.
During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday, Cruz focused his attention on a pair of incidents in which planes nearly collided with each other at an airport in Austin, Texas.
The incident involved a Southwest passenger jet that was cleared for takeoff on the same runway where a FedEx cargo plane was also cleared for landing.
The planes came within less than 100 feet of collision. Cruise played a video animation of the near-crash so Nolen could better understand how close the FedEx flight came to “killing every single person” on the Southwest flight.
See: “How could this happen?”
Senator Ted Cruz asked about the recent near-air collision between a Southwest and FedEx plane in Texas.
— Now is the time for justice (@LiddleSavages) February 15, 2023
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Ted Cruz serves as FAA administrator
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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) noted that he is a frequent flyer from the Austin airport and uses Southwest Airlines for his travels. He then asked a top FAA official about the incident.
“If you were sitting on that Southwest flight, you knew how close you came to the plane landing on top of you, killing every single person on that plane. You would be understandably horrified,” Cruz revealed.
“It was only, as I understand it, that the heroic caution of the pilots and seeing what was happening prevented that tragedy,” he added. “And yet my question is, how could this happen?”
Nolen claimed that the video that The Texas Republican ran did not accurately reveal the visibility issues during the incident and explained that the incident is under investigation.
Sen. Ted Cruz blasts Pete Buttigieg: “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT were working hard to change the name of NOTAM from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Mission.’ … Should have focused on confirming the damn thing instead pic.twitter.com/y1Mves1hmV… https://t.co/tAbkc6Pb4g
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 15, 2023
Cruise also examines problems with the Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) security messaging system that led to the FAA grounding flights across America for the first time since 9/11 last January.
He accused an FAA spokesman of lying to Congress about funding and blasted the administration for not successfully upgrading the system despite being fully funded for more than a decade.
“Full modernization is still a few years away. After investing millions of dollars, I wonder why this bureaucracy is taking so long to do its job?” claimed Cruz.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “The FAA had its own epic screw-up with the meltdown of the NOTAM system. Under Under Secretary Buttigieg’s watch, the FAA issued the first nationwide ground stop since 9-11, resulting in the cancellation of thousands of flights. Now,[Buttigieg’s DOT] No mia culpa gave…” pic.twitter.com/m3BUU3amMF
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 9, 2023
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Cruise effortlessly mocks Pete Buttigieg
As the Senate Commerce hearings began, the FAA announced that it had opened an investigation Fourth Serious plane crashes in the last few months.
In addition to the near collisions between Southwest and FedEx flights, a United Boeing 777 and a Cessna collided with each other in Honolulu after coming within about 1,170 feet of each other on the same runway.
In addition, a Delta Airlines flight nearly collided with an American Airlines flight in New York on January 13, and a United Airlines flight nearly crashed into the ocean after leaving Maui in December.
A United Airlines flight went into a steep nose dive after taking off from Maui in December. The plane sank from 2,200 feet to 775 feet over the Pacific Ocean before recovering and continuing on its way to San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/TPAQ7ZwHzS
— Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) February 15, 2023
Cruz, in his opening statement, slammed Buttigieg for his continued lack of leadership.
“Now in his third year as Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Buttigieg has failed to make any meaningful reforms to the FAA,” he asserted. “Although NOTAM modernization began ten years ago, this administration appears to be focused on semantics.”
“Whether it’s replacing the word ‘mother’ with ‘birthing person’ or creating a new checkbox in passports for people who claim to be neither male nor female, the administration’s desire to signal this quality knows no bounds.”
The senator noted that in December 2021, the NOTAM system was renamed.
Sen. Ted Cruz blasts Pete Buttigieg: “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT were working hard to change the name of NOTAM from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Mission.’ Instead the focus should have been on making sure the damn thing worked.” pic.twitter.com/sBxLMlkiIU
— Baker News (@newsbaker) February 15, 2023
“[The virtue signaling] Even infected the FAA,” Cruz added. “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT were working hard to change the NOTAM name from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions’.”
In fact, that change is listed as a modernization on the FAA website as it claims that the change from ‘airman’ to ‘air mission’ “includes all airmen and missions.”
“Surprisingly, this ‘reform of NOTAM’ didn’t prevent an outage,” Cruz scoffed.
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