March 30, 2023

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen was grilled by Senator Ted Cruz over a recent string of airline 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 in which planes nearly collided with each other at an airport in Austin, Texas.

One of those incidents involved a Southwest passenger jet that had been cleared for takeoff on the same runway that a FedEx cargo plane had also been cleared to land.

The planes came within less than 100 feet of colliding. Cruz played a video animation of the near-disaster so Nolen would have a better understanding of how close the FedEx flight was to “killing every person” on the Southwest flight.

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Ted Cruz Lays Into FAA Administrator

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) noted that he is a frequent flyer out of that Austin airport and uses Southwest airlines for his travels. He then grilled the top FAA official about the incident.

“If you were sitting on that Southwest flight, you knew how close you came to having the plane land on top of you, killing every person on that plane. You would understandably be horrified,” Cruz expressed.

“It was only through, as I understand it, the heroism of the pilots being alert and seeing what was happening that tragedy was averted,” he added. “And yet my question is, how can this happen?”

Nolen contended that the video the Texas Republican had played didn’t properly convey visibility issues at the time of the incident and explained that an investigation is underway into the incident.

Cruz also scrutinized issues with the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) safety messaging system which led to flights being grounded by the FAA across America for the first time since 9/11 this past January.

He accused an FAA spokesman of lying about Congressional funding and blasted the administration for not successfully upgrading the system despite full funding for over a decade.

“Full modernization is still several years away. After investing millions of dollars, I’m wondering why is this bureaucracy taking so long to do its job?” demanded Cruz.

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Cruz Effortlessly Mocks Pete Buttigieg

As the Senate Commerce hearing was set to begin, the FAA announced they had begun an investigation into a fourth serious airline incident in the past few months.

Aside from the near collision between the Southwest and FedEx flights, a United Boeing 777 and a Cessna in Honolulu nearly collided with each other on the same runway, coming within 1,170 feet of each other.

In addition to those, a Delta Airlines plane almost collided with an American Airlines flight in New York on January 13th, and a United Airlines plane nearly plummeted into the ocean after leaving Maui in December.

Cruz, in his opening statement, slammed Buttigieg for his continuing 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 NOTAM modernization started ten years ago, this administration seems focused on semantics.”

“Whether it’s replacing the term ‘mother’ with ‘birthing person’ or creating a new checkbox on passports for people who claim to be neither man nor woman, this administration’s desire to signal its virtue knows no limit.”

The Senator pointed out that in December 2021, the NOTAM system had its name changed.

“[The virtue signaling] has even infected the FAA,” Cruz continued. “Instead of focusing on safety, the FAA and DOT were working hard to change NOTAM’s name from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions.’”

Indeed, that change is listed as a modernization on the FAA website as it claims changing ‘airmen’ to ‘air missions’ is “inclusive of all aviators and missions.”

“Shockingly, this ‘reform of NOTAM’ did not prevent an outage,” Cruz scoffed.

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