FAA declares 'safest period in aviation history' after US shoots down objects, close calls at airports

The FAA memo follows several close-calls between airplanes.

The acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration wrote in a memorandum to the agency's management board that "we are experiencing the safest period in aviation history" just over a week after the military shot down a Chinese spy craft and three "objects" over the past several days.

FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen made the comments in the Tuesday memorandum.

"We are experiencing the safest period in aviation history, but we cannot take this for granted. Recent events remind us that we must not become complacent. Now is the time to stare into the data and ask hard questions," Nolen wrote in the memo. "We must ensure that our structure is fit for purpose for the U.S. aerospace system of both today and the future. That’s why I’m forming a safety review team to examine the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts."

His comments come as the U.S. military shot down a Chinese spy craft on Feb. 4, followed by the shoot-down of three unidentified objects that posed a threat to civil aviation since then.


Parked planes at terminal

United Airlines planes are parked at their gates at O'Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (Reuters/Brendan McDermid / Reuters Photos)

On Dec. 18, 2022, a United Airlines flight departing from Maui, Hawaii, climbed to an altitude of 2,200 feet nearly a minute after takeoff and then plunged to just 775 feet above sea level before climbing back up.

At the time of takeoff, the airport was experiencing heavy rain and a flash flood warning was in effect.

"After landing at SFO, the pilots filed the appropriate safety report," a United Airlines spokesman told FOX Business. "United then closely coordinated with the FAA and ALPA [Air Line Pilots Association] on an investigation that ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training. Safety remains our highest priority."

On Feb. 4, a FedEx plane and a Southwest passenger plane came close to colliding while the FedEx plane was cleared for takeoff.

In January, a Delta Air Lines plane stopped just about 1,000 feet from the location where an American Airlines plane was crossing an adjacent taxiway, avoiding a collision.


Delta planes in Boston Logan Airport

Delta Air Lines passenger jets rest on the tarmac, July 21, 2021, at Boston Logan International Airport, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File / AP Newsroom)

Nolen said that he's forming a "safety review team to examine the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts."

He added that the agency will be holding a safety summit in March to "examine what additional actions the aviation community needs to take to maintain our safety record."

Speaking to the near-collisions, Nolen said that the Commercial Aviation Safety Team should take a "fresh look" at Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing data in order to "mine the data to see whether there are other incidents that resemble ones we have seen in recent weeks."

"Finally, the review team will focus on the Air Traffic Organization (ATO). The review team will assess ATO’s internal processes, systems, and operational integration. I will ask the team to explore actions needed to reinforce a collaborative, data-driven safety culture. The review will also look for opportunities to strengthen the connection between ATO and the FAA Aviation Safety organization for monitoring and addressing of safety risks," Nolen writes in the Memo.


An American Airlines jet

An American Airlines jet moves along the runway at Laguardia AIrport on November 10, 2022 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"We know that our aviation system is changing dramatically. Now is the time to act," he added.

The Associated Press and Fox News' Bradford Betz, Greg Norman, and Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.