Government watchdog to audit FAA's safety measures following runway incursions.

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) runway safety strategies are set to be scrutinized by a U.S. government watchdog, following a string of near-collision incidents involving aircraft on runways.

The U.S. Transportation Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) has disclosed its intent to conduct an audit to assess FAA's methodology for data analysis, risk identification, and measures to prevent and mitigate runway incursions. The move comes as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating six runway incursion events since the beginning of the year, some of which narrowly escaped catastrophe.

In an effort to ramp up air traffic control safety, the FAA held a safety summit and issued a safety alert in March. An independent safety review team was established in April, followed by a June announcement of a $100 million fund designated for a dozen airports to upgrade taxiways and lighting systems with a goal of reducing runway incursions.

Embracing the upcoming audit, the FAA expressed its readiness to showcase its progress to the OIG on Thursday.

NTSB Chair, Jennifer Homendy, detailed a potentially disastrous incident where a FedEx cargo plane and a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 came within roughly 35 meters of each other amidst poor visibility in Austin, Texas on February 4. She highlighted that the calamity was averted when the FedEx plane's first officer spotted a single light and the silhouette of the Southwest 737, prompting them to abort their landing.

The report also cites near-miss incidents in locations such as Boston, Florida, and a near-collision at New York's JFK airport involving a Delta Air Lines plane and an American Airlines Boeing 777.

The OIG published a report last month stating that the FAA's attempts to maintain sufficient air traffic controller staffing have been inadequate. It revealed that 77% of crucial air traffic control facilities fall below the FAA's 85% staffing threshold. Facility managers report understaffing issues, including a lack of supervisors. The report found that some facilities are resorting to mandatory overtime and six-day work weeks to address personnel shortages. It also noted that trainees constitute 26% of the FAA's total pool of 13,300 controllers.