FAA insists skies safe despite 81 percent more mistakes 

Air traffic controllers made a record 1,800 mistakes last year, an error rate that is 81 percent higher than in 2007, USA Today reports.

Newly released data shows that at least 43 of the mistakes reported to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2010 could have caused a midair collision, compared to 34 three years earlier. FAA says the increases are due to a new “no fault” system that encourages air traffic controllers to honestly report all incidents.

But David Conley, president of the FAA Managers Association, told the House Transportation Committee earlier this month that the new system actually hinders managers’ ability to correct air traffic controllers' mistakes, because they cannot immediately reprimand an employee when an error has been made.

Slate’s Timothy Noah also pointed out the problems he encountered when he tried to compare FAA air traffic control performance data from one year to the next, making it all but impossible for him to determine whether the skies are more hazardous  than they used to be:

I don't see why the FAA won't make a parallel effort to keep more precise track of whether the performance of its air traffic controllers is getting better or worse. That would tell consumers something about whether flying was getting safer or more dangerous. Could it be that the FAA would just as soon we didn't know?

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