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Employee rides down a baggage conveyor belt  (Source: AP)
NASA kept research data private to avoid a panic

If you're afraid of flying, this recent article compiled by the Associated Press probably won't relieve any of your pre-flight stress.

After conducting an $8.5 million safety project that revealed safety problems, NASA withheld the results to avoid upsetting air passengers.  The following safety issues take place more than the public is aware - bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway interference.  NASA interviewed more than 24,000 commercial and private pilots over a four-year span that started in 2000 - after finishing the interviews and stopping all research, NASA has spent the past year silent about data gathered.

NASA last week requested the main contractor delete all relevant information from its computers.  According to NASA, no collected data was severe enough to warrant contacting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  

Publishing the data could have damaged the "public's confidence in airlines and affect airline profits," said Thomas Luedtke, senior NASA official.

"If the airlines aren't safe I want to know about it," said Rep. Brad Miller, R-N.C., chairman of the House Science and Technology investigations and oversight subcommittee.  "I would rather not feel a false sense of security because they don't tell us," he added.

The House Science and Technology committee will now reportedly launch an investigation, also warning NASA and its contractor to not delete any documents.

Due to the AP article published in the morning, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the U.S. space agency will work to try and find a way some of the information can be published for everyone.  The information "should be widely available and subject to review and scrutiny," he said in an official NASA statement.

NASA Ames Research Center officials want to publish a public report before 2008.


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RE: Irresponsible
By TomZ on 10/23/2007 10:02:24 AM , Rating: 4
I think in general the public should know about the real risks involved. They should not be hidden. People should be able to make informed decisions if they so choose. If flying is actually slightly riskier than we perceive, then people might choose to fly just a little less, and that is the correct outcome if you ask me.


RE: Irresponsible
By Oregonian2 on 10/23/2007 1:29:01 PM , Rating: 3
Unfortunately, the public would know MORE than what is "real" in terms of risk. Something that can cause a technical risk-probability problem 0.001% of the time (even if it NEVER caused an actual accident) will be blown up to "death for sure if I fly" by the tabloids and the rest of the press (which are tabloid wanna-be's). That's the fear I suspect. People won't read reports and analyze it, they'll see article headlines (which are hyped up.. "risk in....") and that'll be all that is read.


RE: Irresponsible
By Alexstarfire on 10/23/2007 4:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
Gotta say that when I read the title I was quite scared. My GF is on a 14 hour plane ride as I type this. Then I read what the survey and such is supposed to entail and I think it's stuff that doesn't make too much difference. I mean, bird strikes, you can't do much to prevent those other than making the cockpit glass bird strike resistant, which has been done already. There is always a risk of a bird hitting the engine, but if they fly high enough the risk is minimal since many birds can't fly 5+ miles above the ground.

Near collisions and runway interference aren't that big a deal either, but since it doesn't say what the causes are it's hard to say if it can be improved. Animals can cause havoc at airports. I remember seeing on TV one time that a few airports had a person with a trained hawk/eagle/falcon/whatever, that they'd send out to scare off all the birds before a plane landed. Near collisions, well that depends on the definition of near. I near collisions are like even 1/4 mile apart then it's not really that near.


RE: Irresponsible
By Oregonian2 on 10/23/2007 6:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
As far a bird hits go, there's a semi-famous story about that that ends in a story about how planes/engines were tested. Had to do with shooting high speed frozen chickens (or was it turkeys?) to make sure they'd survive (not the birds!). Forgot why they were frozen, but that was part of the story whose details I've forgotten. That was quite some time ago.


RE: Irresponsible
By FITCamaro on 10/23/2007 10:56:59 PM , Rating: 2
I would work for free to do that just once.


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