Transportation secretary speaks about runway safety at Charlotte airport

CHARLOTTE — There’s a rising number of close calls between planes -- It’s something we’ve seen in the air and on runways across the country.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited Charlotte Douglas International Airport Wednesday to talk about how to prevent close calls from happening here. Channel 9 government reporter Joe Bruno sat down with him one-on-one.

We haven’t seen any high-profile close calls here at Charlotte Douglas, and Buttigieg touted the work of our air traffic controllers and the safety improvements that have been put in place.

Buttigieg visited Charlotte’s busy airport on Wednesday, a day after President Joe Biden was in Durham for the “Investing in America” tour. Buttigieg’s part of the tour involves visiting CLT and three other airports between Wednesday and Thursday.

Buttigieg toured the airport with his motorcade and stopped by the new 370-foot air traffic control tower. He also checked out the construction of the End Around Taxiway Project. Once finished, the project will help airplanes get to and from their gates without crossing active runways. It also will decrease taxi times by an average of 4 minutes.

Channel 9 previously reported when a flight from Charlotte had to maneuver and perform a “go-around” as it approached a landing in Sarasota, Florida on Feb. 16, because a plane was cleared to take off on the same runway.

Across the United States, there have been seven close calls this year alone, with planes nearly hitting each other. That has some passengers concerned.

“I’m scared, I’m really scared to get on but I have to go,” one passenger told Bruno.

Buttigieg called these incidents unacceptable and said the FAA has a plan.

“What the FAA is doing is taking these close calls as seriously as you would take an actual collision,” he said.

Buttigieg said an FAA safety summit focused on specific steps to take to crack down on the near-hits. The agency also issued a safety alert to pilots and airlines warning them to be vigilant.

As summer travel approaches, Secretary Buttigieg said travelers should have confidence their flight is safe.

“The U.S. has an extraordinary safety record,” he said. “It has been more than a decade without a crash in commercial aviation, making it safer than crossing the street or any other mode of transportation you can imagine, but we never take that for granted.”

Buttigieg will fly to Little Rock, Arkansas, after he leaves Charlotte.

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