Print 20 comment(s) - last by smitty3268.. on Jan 2 at 9:10 PM

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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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
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.

More at:

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 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.

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