NASA Shelved Air Safety Study

ABC News' Lisa Stark Reports: Airplane engine failure, planes hitting birds in the air, violent weather-related turbulence -- these details and more are in an air safety study that NASA has shelved.

Government officials involved in a shelved study NASA commissioned to look into air safety tell ABC News that they were very disappointed when the project was ended. They thought it could have been a real boon for safety and they are hoping that the data gets used, sources tell ABC News.

When the Associated Press asked NASA for the data in report, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request, NASA said they couldn't release the data because it might undermine the public's confidence in the aviation system, and could be detrimental to the airlines. So now Congress is asking questions, wanting to know from NASA what this data is, why hasn't it been released, and what's going on with it.

It all stemmed from a 1997 Gore Commission Report on Aviation, when the Clinton administration was determined to reduce the air accident rate by 80 percent.

In order to find out the causes of problems and accidents, NASA developed a survey and interviewed about 24,000 airline pilots, asking pilots a series of some 90 questions about their experiences with close calls in the air.

NASA intended to include air traffic controllers and flight attendants in the study of valuable safety information, however in 2005 the interviews stopped, the data was never released, and the question now becomes -- why?

Those who have been involved in the project are loath to talk on-camera or on-the-record, but are telling ABC News that they were very disappointed when the project was ended. They thought it could have been a real boon for safety and they are hoping that this data gets used.

Just last week, NASA sent out an email to those involved in the project, asking them to destroy any data that they had on hand. Some people believe that it's because NASA wants to make sure they are sitting on all of the data themselves and no one else has it out there.

NASA has stated that the information is sensitive, it could hurt the airlines and it could undermine the confidence of the flying public. There are some in NASA who believe they may still be preparing a report on all of this data, but NASA officials have yet to confirm this.

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