The roar of aircraft overhead was the soundtrack of United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s visit to DFW Airport Thursday, as he announced groundbreaking for a $28.8 million airfield project designed to reduce the prevalence of near-accidents between planes.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reported more than 700 incidents this year in which airfield mistakes could have resulted in dangerous collisions – including a near-miss between a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines plane in Austin last month. Buttigieg said these incidents are why the FAA has made aircraft safety a priority in 2023.
“While they remain extremely rare, more than one — more than zero — is unacceptable,” he said. “And that’s why we continue to focus on issues across the system, and opportunities to control those issues.”
The construction project at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport includes an end-around taxiway at the southwest end of the airfield. This U-turn lane for aircraft will reduce the need for planes to cross paths, and consequently reduce the risk of collisions. The new taxiway is set to be completed in 2025.
DFW International is the second-busiest airport in the world in passenger traffic, according to the Airports Council International, making it a critical hub for air travel. Buttigieg recognized the powerful economic engine of the airport, as well as the infrastructure improvements that make flying easier for passengers.
“It’s obviously a tremendous safety impact, a very positive safety impact,” said Sean Donohue, chief executive officer of DFW Airport. “But it also allows our customers to get to the gate faster, on average about four minutes faster in terms of their taxi.”
The FAA has already provided $180 million to DFW Airport’s now-complete end-around system at the northeast end of the airfield, and Buttigieg’s trip follows the FAA’s Safety Summit earlier this month, which addressed flight safety incidents. Jonathan Miranda, a pilot with Irving-based Envoy Airlines, said these safety improvements prioritize pilot safety.
“I commend the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration for utilizing our nation’s infrastructure investment to make these important safety improvements,” Miranda said. “My colleagues and I work hard every day to ensure the safety of the flying public in and out of this airport and the many others we service.”
Buttigieg has made a point of speaking out about consumer rights and airline accountability, and he said he and the FAA are working constantly to protect passengers.
“Every time a passenger gets on a plane — every time I get on a plane — they can do so with the knowledge that not just men and women of the FAA, but the airline and those who are designing these facilities are working to ensure they’re safe,” Buttigieg said.
The groundbreaking at DFW Airport marks a significant milestone in the pursuit of air travel safety, but Buttigieg said the FAA is committed to continuing their efforts to reduce the number of near-misses and make sure passengers feel safe every time they board a plane.