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Pressure applied by Congress forced NASA to turn over the report

After NASA admitted it tried to keep airline survey results secret from the public, the U.S. space agency recently released the report due to strong pressure from Congress.  The 16,000-page report was not released with a guide or roadmap, which makes it almost impossible for anyone but NASA officials to realistically gather information from the report.

Even though NASA interviewed nearly 30,000 commercial and private pilots during the $11.3 million USD federal air safety study, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said airline passengers shouldn't be concerned about the study.  "It's hard for me to see any data the traveling public would care about or ought to care about," he said during a conference call on Monday.  "We were asked to release the data, and we did."

The disbanded National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service -- designed to help create data gathering practices that could be used by other government agencies-- drew heavy criticism after NASA decided to release parts of the report on New Year's Eve.

"We are willing to release the data, but we — NASA — are not willing to draw conclusions from it," Griffin added. "NASA does not have any plans to analyze it. That is for the broader community."

Furthermore, Griffin said the only reason NASA compiled the information was to help the U.S. space agency test different methods of gathering large amounts of data.  The U.S. space agency originally denied requests to turn over the information after the Associated Press and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy asked in October, but Congress said the information must be made public.

The report includes more than 1,000 different occasions when two aircraft flew within 500 feet of one another, which is technically a near miss; 513 hard landing reports; 4,267 reports of birds hitting aircraft; and unspecified numbers of pilots sleeping on the flight deck.

Some parts of the report included narratives contributed by pilots, but often times the released information was too vague to reach a conclusion of overall air safety.  To help protect the anonymity of all the pilots who participated, the report does not link pilot statements to the type of aircraft they flew.

Congress plans to pressure NASA for more details later down the road.



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Yet it's still safer to fly.
By Alexstarfire on 1/2/2008 12:18:24 AM , Rating: 2
At the end of the article it seems like they are trying to show that there are issues that the public would care about. Even with all those statistics it's still safer to fly than to travel by any other means. Not only that but those statistics don't really mean anything unless you say what circumstances they were under. They could be told in the report, but I don't see a link to the report, if it's even out yet. I wouldn't want to look though 16,000 pages either. I bet if we took stats on all the police in the country that the stats would look far more disturbing.

Anyways, I don't see a problem with pilots sleeping on the plane since the aircraft can basically fly AND LAND itself. I'm sure they could even program it to take off too. Seems like pilots are more of a formality now-a-days, just in case something goes wrong.




RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By amanojaku on 1/2/2008 1:21:26 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Anyways, I don't see a problem with pilots sleeping on the plane since the aircraft can basically fly AND LAND itself. I'm sure they could even program it to take off too. Seems like pilots are more of a formality now-a-days, just in case something goes wrong.


If pilots are obsolete who's going to drink the booze before, during and after the flight?!?


RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By Gholam on 1/2/2008 1:54:32 AM , Rating: 2
The passengers?


RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By Gibby82 on 1/2/2008 3:22:43 AM , Rating: 2
The only thing you need to worry about is the near misses.

Bird strikes, hard landings, and pilots sleeping (there are two, so imagine on falling asleep isn't uncommon) aren't that big of a deal.

Now as for the near misses, this is almost more on the ATC end than pilots. As I understand it, ATC tell them where they are cleared to fly, notifies them of any course changes needed, and basically controls the sky. The other contributing factor would be malfunctioning equipment.

Now, the real question for all of this is how many flight are there per year in the US? I would imagine it might put these numbers into better perspective.


RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By Gibby82 on 1/2/2008 3:24:28 AM , Rating: 2
*one* falling asleep


By Alexstarfire on 1/2/2008 3:45:26 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't really think so. Granted I don't know where these "near misses" took place, but I'd bet that 99% of them were at or in the vicinity of the airport where it was taking off/landing. If all these near misses occurred out in the middle of nowhere then we'd have something to be worried about. Even then, I haven't heard of two commercial planes colliding on accident. Have you?


RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By Fritzr on 1/2/2008 4:03:19 AM , Rating: 6
I think the Canary Island accident involving 2 fully loaded Boeing 747s was due to pilot error. Pilot was told by ATC to hold for clearance. Pilot then immediately took off and did not have enough speed to hop over the obstacle on the runway (2d 747)

A small plane took out a larger jet in South America last year. The blackbox ratted out the pilots. They were busy joking around at a time flight rules required they be paying attention to what they were doing.

Bird strikes are relatively unavoidable. Hard landings due to poor maintenance/pilot error are accidents the aircraft survived. Just because the news media ignore accidents that don't seriously damage the aircraft and/or passengers does not mean they don't point to causes that can seriously damage the aircraft or it's contents.

If NASA did include a Privacy Statement in their survey, then they did the correct thing by sanitizing the data before release. If they actually expect people to believe that they never intended to analyze the data, then I would think those administrators should be removed for terminal stupidity. A data gathering test's results can only be validated by analyzing the data gathered and finding that the result meets the requirements.

As far as releasing the analysis they did to validate the procedure, you can be sure they got a lot of pressure from FAA and related bureaucrats to make sure the results got buried deep if it showed real safety concerns being ignored by them. After all this report was merely to test a data gathering protocol, so the results are of course meaningless :D


RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By TomZ on 1/2/2008 8:36:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Bird strikes, hard landings, and pilots sleeping (there are two, so imagine on falling asleep isn't uncommon) aren't that big of a deal.

Regarding bird strikes, you're wrong about that:
Myth - Bird strikes cannot cause serious airline accidents.
Fact - Since 1975, five large jet airliners have had major accidents where bird strikes played a significant role. In one case, about three dozen people were killed.

http://www.birdstrike.org/commlink/top_ten.htm

More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_strike

I don't know about hard landings, but I'd guess those place additional undesired stress on the aircraft that could lead to safety concerns immediately or later on.

Regarding sleeping pilots, if it were perfectly safe to have only one pilot, then there wouldn't be rules that require two pilots, would there? No, pilots are paid professionals earning more money than most of us, the least they can do is stay awake on the job.


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 1/2/2008 12:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
Bird strikes on engines are typically not fatal. All aircraft engines must be certified to intake a fairly large chunk of flesh (I think they use pig corpses for the testing.)

My mom works for the industry, and I've seen some pretty grisly pictures of what happens when a 300mph plane hits a large bird. There isn't much left of the bird, and the remains will definitely chew up a fuselage.


RE: Yet it's still safer to fly.
By Some1ne on 1/2/2008 3:33:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If pilots are obsolete who's going to drink the booze before, during and after the flight?!?


Don't worry, you can always challenge the autopilot to a martini drinking contest.


why NASA?
By Gul Westfale on 1/2/2008 11:23:38 AM , Rating: 2
why did NASA do this study? isn't this the job of the FAA or perhaps the NTSB?




RE: why NASA?
By Dasickninja on 1/2/2008 1:37:30 PM , Rating: 2
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The FAA is a regulatory body and the NTSB usually is involved after an accident occurs. NASA does have authority when it comes to civilian aviation. IIRC they have a reporting program where pilots can state with some immunity what mistakes they make.


RE: why NASA?
By Gul Westfale on 1/2/2008 3:30:02 PM , Rating: 2
ah, i thought in order to make regulations the FAA did these things...


RE: why NASA?
By FastLaneTX on 1/2/2008 8:04:39 PM , Rating: 2
When it comes to atmospheric flight, NASA does research while the FAA handles operations. They overlap to a degree, but generally it's clear which does what. NASA gets rules waivers for testing various things and collects lots of data, which the FAA often uses as input to the regulatory process.


You've got it backwards
By Doormat on 1/2/2008 12:48:04 AM , Rating: 2
"After NASA admitted it tried to keep airline survey results secret from the public"

You know why they didn't want to release it? Because NASA promised that the information obtained for this report would not be released, and it wont be identifiable back to the individual pilot.

Now NASA was forced to hand over the data and disband the group behind it because of pressure for Congress. Never mind that they were working towards the goal of making the airways even more safe than they already are.

NASA used the most efficient and best tactics until Congress put their nose where it didn't belong. So now all that data went to waste, along with my tax dollars, because the data cant be analyzed for improvements to our nations airways, airlines, pilots and aircraft.




RE: You've got it backwards
By smitty3268 on 1/2/08, Rating: -1
RE: You've got it backwards
By Doormat on 1/2/2008 10:43:04 AM , Rating: 2
Because without the confidentiality agreement that this data was collected under, the information would have never been obtained.

That is, had the pilots and everyone else who contributed known that the data would eventually be released to the general public they would have never volunteered the information in the first place.

Now that that trust has been destroyed, hope for projects like this in the future that rely on confidentiality agreements between government agencies and folks who would otherwise contribute information is now zero.

And comparing this with Cigarette makers is completely preposterous - last I checked flying wasn't hazardous to your health. It seems you're the one who is smoking something.


RE: You've got it backwards
By smitty3268 on 1/2/2008 9:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
Please. Are you saying the government is so impossibly incompetent they can't get any of this kind of information without promising to keep it buried? Why wouldn't a promise of anonymity be enough, like it is for everyone else?


Bureaucrat
By JAB on 1/2/2008 12:36:29 AM , Rating: 3
We don't believe there is any reason for concern with safety but we refuse to come to any conclusions.

These statements have no logic it sounds like no one is willing to take responsibility for their work. This is a good example of the mindset that is causing so much trouble at NASA lately getting anything done. It is sad once the Bureaucrats take over not much gets done except the generation of piles of paperwork with no though behind it.




Read the report
By Fritzr on 1/2/2008 4:10:34 AM , Rating: 2
Here is a direct link to the NASA release of this data. Interesting how many news reports say we looked, here is our opinion and do not care to tell their readers how to find it :)

http://www.nasa.gov/news/reports/NAOMS.html




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