WASHINGTON (AP) - Errors by air traffic controllers in the vicinity of airports as well as incidents in which there was an unauthorized plane, vehicle, or person on a runway have increased sharply, a government watchdog said in a report released Thursday.
Mistakes by controllers working at radar facilities that handle approaches and departures within about 30 miles of an airport that cause planes to fly too close together nearly doubled over three years ending in March, the Government Accountability Office report said.
Separately, runway incursions at airports with control towers increased from 11 incidents per million takeoffs and landings in the 2004 federal budget year to 18 incidents per million takeoffs and landings in the 2010 federal budget year. Most large and medium-sized airports have control towers. Such "runway incursions," as they are called, can involve anything that's not supposed to be on a runway, from a stray baggage cart to a plane that makes a wrong turn while taxiing.
The deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977 on an airport runway on the Spanish island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands when two Boeing 747s collided, killing 583 people.