Sen. Ted Cruz questioned the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration during a Friday hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
Cruz brought up a recent near-disastrous close call between two commercial jets to acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen in the hearing.
The Texas senator played a video re-creation of the near-collision between the FedEx and Southwest jets at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
The runway mishap occurred on Feb. 5, according to the New York Post.
Cruz’s re-creation showed a FedEx jet nearly landing on top of the departing Southwest flight — with air traffic controllers seemingly oblivious to the emergency.
Investigators have determined that the two commercial airliners came as close as 100 feet of one another in the incident — a massive breach of air traffic protocol that could’ve become a mass casualty incident.
“If you were sitting on that Southwest flight, you knew how close you were to having a plane land on top of you — killing every person on that plane,” Cruz said of the incident.
“You would understandably be horrified.”
Cruz demanded answers as to air traffic control’s failure to prevent the planes from nearly colliding.
“How can this happen?” he asked.
Nolen went on to cite low visibility conditions on the day of the near-collision, while stating that the incident remained under FAA investigation.
Cruz emphasized the importance of preventing future near-misses.
“Let me just underscore the urgency of preventing that sort of incident from happening again,” he admonished Nolen.
Concerns over the nation’s aviation system have intensified after a series of mishaps in the last year.
A United Airlines flight rapidly descended to within 1,000 feet of the Pacific Ocean after takeoff from Hawaii in December.
Thousands of Southwest passengers were left stranded at airports amid mass cancellations in the Christmas season — a problem that Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has pledged to fix before.
Cruz criticized Buttigieg’s job performance in a Wednesday hearing.
I am disappointed DOT Secretary Buttigieg is engaging in politics rather than addressing the very serious transportation crises we are seeing playing out across America. pic.twitter.com/7edzpu0RVb
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) February 15, 2023
Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation is the parent agency of the FAA.