Airport receipts kept for audit thrown under parking deck

File photo of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Source: WGCL)

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport continues its reign as the world's busiest. But that comes with a risk.

Experts say there's an ever-growing number of passengers with airport space failing to catch up. The result is on the ground congestion and confusion, just waiting for disaster.

It's a problem we've been reporting on for more than two years. But now, the FAA is finally admitting in a new report it's "a major safety issue."

Runway incursions is aviation speak for when an aircraft or vehicle enters another's path without authorization. The FAA released new data which shows incursions are increasing at a rate of about 10 percent each year.

And this year, they're at an all-time high with 1,300 incidents worldwide.

Six of those were classified as A and B events, which is classified as serious incidents in which a collision is narrowly avoided, or an incident with significant potential for collision.

In other words, by the grace of God, no one was killed.

"The clock is clearly ticking when you see these near-misses and realize we've come rather close to some bad things happening," says aviation expert Seth Kaplan.

According to the FAA, the majority of these recent incursions are due to "pilot deviation," or aircraft improperly cleared to land or depart on an occupied runway.

ATL, which the FAA says has historically ranked near the top of the list for incursions, has seen its fair share of close calls and continues to. Just last year, a Delta plane on Runway 27R aborted takeoff after an arriving jet crossed its path.

The departing plane had to slam on its brakes.

The FAA has identified four runway hot spots of continual concern at the airport.

"That's a place where they've known people to cross when they shouldn't cross," says retired pilot Chuck Maire.

The alarming increase in reported incursions -- which continues today -- comes after the FAA launched a national runway safety plan two years ago to reduce runway crossings.

The FAA claims better reporting is one reason incidents are rising so rapidly. None the less, their admission this fall of a "major safety issue" makes it clear the problem hasn't been solved.

Safety experts say, however, that air travel as a whole is the safest its been in years.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Chief Investigative Reporter

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