Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen was grilled by Senator Ted Cruz about recent aviation safety failures involving the administration and called out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for focusing on “semantics” rather than safety.
During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday, Cruz focused his attention on a pair of incidents where planes collided at an airport in Austin, Texas.
One of those incidents involved a Southwest passenger jet cleared for takeoff on the same runway as a FedEx cargo plane also cleared for landing.
The planes collided and came less than 100 feet apart. Cruise played a video animation of the near-disaster so Nolen could better understand how close the FedEx plane came to “killing every single person” on the Southwest flight.
Watch: “How Does It Happen?”
Senator Ted Cruz asks about the recent near-air collision between a Southwest and FedEx flight in Texas.
Watch the clip for Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen (@FAA_Billy) Answer. pic.twitter.com/1v1jREbT2U
— It’s Time for Justice (@LiddleSavages) February 15, 2023
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Ted Cruz was appointed FAA administrator
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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) noted that he is a frequent traveler from the Austin airport and uses Southwest Airlines for his travels. He later grilled 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 you, killing every single person on that plane. You would be understandably horrified,” Cruz expressed.
“As I understand it, the disaster was only avoided by the pilots being alert and seeing what was happening,” he said. “My question is though, how does this happen?”
Nolen argued that the video played by the Texas Republican did not properly address visibility issues during the incident and explained that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Pete Buttigieg: “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT are working hard to change the name of NOTAM from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions.'” pic.twitter.com/y1Mves1hmV… https://t.co/tAbkc6Pb4g
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 15, 2023
Cruz last January overhauled problems with the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) safety messaging system that caused the FAA to ground planes across America for the first time since 9/11.
He accused FAA spokesmen of lying about congressional funding and blasted the administration for not successfully updating the system despite being fully funded for more than a decade.
“Full modernization is still several years away. After investing millions of dollars, I wonder why this bureaucracy is taking so long to do its job? Cruz demanded.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “The FAA had its own epic with the meltdown of the NOTAM system. On Under Secretary Buttigieg’s watch, the FAA issued the first nationwide ground shutdown since 9-11, leading to thousands of canceled flights. Now,[Buttigieg’s DOT] No mea culpa was offered…” pic.twitter.com/m3BUU3amMF
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) February 9, 2023
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Cruise effortlessly mocks Pete Buttigieg
As the Senate Commerce hearing began, the FAA announced it had opened an investigation Fourth A serious aviation incident in the last few months.
Aside from the collision between the Southwest and FedEx planes, the United Boeing 777 and the Honolulu-based Cessna were coming within 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 crashed into the ocean after taking off from Maui in December.
A United Airlines flight took a steep nose dive after takeoff 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 lack of leadership.
“Now in his third year as Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Buttigieg has failed to deliver any meaningful reform to the FAA,” he asserted. “Although notum modernization began ten years ago, this administration has focused on semantics.”
“Whether it’s replacing the word ‘mother’ with ‘person of birth’ or creating a new checkbox on passports for people who claim to be male or female, this administration’s desire for virtue signaling knows no bounds.”
The senator pointed out that in December 2021, the NOTAM system changed its name.
Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Pete Buttigieg: “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT are working to change the name of NOTAM from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions.’ The focus should be on making sure the damn thing works instead. pic.twitter.com/sBxLMlkiIU
— Becker News (@NewsBecker) February 15, 2023
“[The virtue signaling] has infected the FAA,” Cruz continued. “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT are working hard to change the name of NOTAM from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions’.”
In fact, that change is listed as a modernization on the FAA website because it says changing ‘airmen’ to ‘air missions’ “includes all aviators and operations.”
“Shockingly, this ‘improvement of NOTAM’ did not prevent the shutdown,” Cruz mocked.
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