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What NASA won't tell you about air safety.

rabble (22388) writes | more than 6 years ago

Censorship 6

rabble (22388) writes "According to a report out of Washington, DC's WTOP, NASA wants to avoid telling you about how unsafe you are when you fly. According to the article, when an $8.5M safety study of about 24,000 pilots indicated an alarming number of near collisions and runway incidents, NASA refused to release the results. The article quotes one congressman as saying "There is a faint odor about it all." A friend of mine who is a general aviation pilot responded to the article by saying "It's scary but no surprise to those of us who fly.""

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Why NASA? (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21071581)

Why would NASA do this vs say the FAA? Yes they have an Aeronautics mandate too but they aren't the ones most people associate with airline safety.

Where did the data go and who did it benefit? A 4 YEAR study can't have been too cheap so you'd hope that someone got benefit from it....

Re:Why NASA? (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21073605)

Congress gave NASA a lot of responsibility for aviation safety recommendations and aviation incident/accident reporting precisely because the FAA is associated with aviation safety and regulation -- so people who have done something wrong, or may have done something wrong, won't tell the truth to the FAA because they stand to get in so much trouble. (The advice of every aviation professional is: if you have *any* reason to talk to the FAA about anything, get a lawyer. In contrast, since NASA can't initiate certificate action -- code talk for taking your pilot certificate away, levying civil fines, and such, they're an impartial observer and people have a reason to talk honestly to them. There's a program in place where you can anonymously report unsafe situations/actions to NASA and by so doing reduce your risk of FAA activity aimed at you, although the actual effectiveness of the latter part is in question.
You can read more about the ASRS on NASA's site [] if you're curious.

Re:Why NASA? (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21077983)

Thanks for the informative response - makes sense. Sad that folks have to be so scared of the regulators as to only speak to others but I guess it is whatit is...

Re:Why NASA? (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21080691)

It is, but it's a very leveraged situation: if you have *any* FAA enforcement action on your record, at all, even if it ended up being what amounts to a slap on the wrist, nobody will hire you ever again. Your flying career is over. So people have an incredibly high incentive to fear the FAA. Added to that is significant discretion given to individual FAA inspectors for assessment of wrongdoing, a history of backing up those inspectors' decisions no matter how bad they are, and absolutely no recourse or oversight without actually getting an act of Congress passed, and you have a situation that's ripe for individual disaster.

Consider the case of Bob Hoover [] : a decorated WWII fighter pilot whose medical certificate was revoked because someone at the FAA personally disliked Hoover -- a case that ended up going to the Supreme Court because the FAA backed up its inspector's decision against all external evidence. The same thing is currently happening/has happened to Howard Fried and Mike Taylor, two world-famous pilots/instructors, who have had various certifications pulled for no given reason. Imagine, then, how much worse it'd be for someone who actually did something wrong: your professional career is finished in an instant.

Many pilots regard the FAA much the way that peons consider mad kings: a necessary evil, but often more evil than necessary.

Re:Why NASA? (1)

Steeltalon (734391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21075479)

Yeah, this seems to go beyond the responsibilities of NASA. The FAA I can see handling this, but if it doesn't have to do with satellites or space travel, I can't understand why NASA is investigating

Release it anyway (1)

radarvectors (103651) | more than 6 years ago | (#21076501)

NASA already runs the ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System), a safety program that relies on anonymity and voluntary submissions, withe the carrot being immunity from FAA enforcement action for certain transgressions, as long as they are reported.

This project appears to be a data-collection effort aimed at assessing and improving the ASRS or creating a new system to collect accident data.

The safety community really needs to drill deep to find the cause of the next accident. Airline safety is at a very high level, and all of the easy targets have been made. What this program was looking for were those potential causes percolating just below the surface - defects in the system that have not caused accidents but have the potential to.

A typical incident is not going to be reported unless it meets damage and injury or the personnel involved voluntarily report it to gain immunity from FAA enforcement action. I'm a pilot and instructor- I have seen it all out there, but my only reports to ASRS (I have made 2) have been ones where I wanted to get it on record and establish immunity (both involved unclear communication with ATC controllers).

Yes, the ASRS has major limitations. This project looks like it had a lot of potential to improve the safety system for the US and by extension the rest of the world. That budget cuts and funding shifts for the Moon and Mars resulted in its cancellation is just another sign of NASA being forced to give up on the "Aeronautics" end of the business in favor of space flight - droppping research and facilities that have produced great advances and efficiencies in aviation. Industry in the US just does not have the incentive to do basic, long-term payoff aeronautical research. Someone with a longer time horizon than next quarter's results will pick up the slack, and gain the rewards.

NASA should release the raw data, even if incomplete, and fund an upgrade to the ASRS with online reporting. Make it easier to report and you'll get more data. More data will help chase down and possibly the cause of the next accident.
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