The holiday travel season is here. On the Thanksgiving holiday, a record 27 million passengers took to the air to celebrate with family and friends. And millions more will fly each and every day throughout the winter holidays. We board these flights with the expectation they will be safe.

But this GAO report makes clear that the Bush Administration is letting us down. It shows that the FAA is failing to provide adequate levels of safety on our runways and throughout our airports. Chairman Costello and I called for this report after the crash of ComAir Flight 5191. In August 2006, that plane crashed in soon after take-off because it was on the wrong runway. Forty-nine people lost their lives. That crash, combined with a number of close calls at our airports, left us concerned about the safety of our nation’s runways—and the airplanes that rely on them.

Unfortunately, our fears were well-founded. This GAO report exposes major failures by the Federal Aviation Administration. This is simply unacceptable. Travelers deserve better. For example, the FAA has no national plan for runway safety—despite the fact that the FAA requires one. The FAA abandoned their last safety plan and the funding for safety offices and experts five years ago. In addition, GAO found that the FAA still has no plan to reduce air traffic controller fatigue, despite clear recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board after the Kentucky crash. Right now, the FAA is forcing many controllers to work six-day weeks—which dulls their senses and puts fliers at risk.


The fundamental problem is understaffing and poor management: the FAA is forcing too few controllers to manage the safety of too many flights. Former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey even admitted that the Bush Administration’s poor management and staffing pushed many controllers out the door.

But to me, the most troubling part of the GAO report is that the FAA has failed to solve problems they have known about for years. For instance, as of June 2007, 21 of the 47 runways at the country’s ten busiest commercial airports did not meet FAA runway safety standards.

Two years ago, I wrote a law requiring our runways to meet those standards by 2015. My law got the FAA moving to improve safety on our runways. But this report makes clear that the Administration is not moving fast enough. Based on the GAO’s report, I plan to expand my original runway safety law to address these problems. I look forward to working with my friends here in the House to get that new legislation passed. By 2015, airlines expect a billion passengers a year. Those flyers are buying their tickets expecting safe flights. It’s time for the FAA to deliver.