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Sat, Mar 28, 2009

AP: FAA Trying To Prevent Release Of Bird Strike Data

Agency Concerned Report Could "Unfairly Cast Aspersions" On Safety

Though the matter of airplane bird strikes has only recently caught the attention of the general public, with the January 15 "Miracle on the Hudson" ditching of a US Airways A320... in truth it's been a problem since the dawn of flight.

But just how big a problem is it? Funny thing is, the FAA doesn't want you to know.

The agency had planned to release its 19-year-old database on bird strikes, following a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Associated Press. The FAA told the AP it would release the data within days, following a February 18 conference call.

Well, it's now March 28... and still no report. The AP reports the FAA submitted a proposal Tuesday, asking for permission to keep the data private... citing concerns about the safety image of the airline industry, and of certain airports.

"The agency is concerned that there is a serious potential that information related to bird strikes will not be submitted because of fear that the disclosure of raw data could unfairly cast unfounded aspersions on the submitter," the FAA noted in the Federal Register.

That line of reasoning probably sounds familiar if you followed the hoops NASA jumped through two years ago, as it worked to prevent the release of data obtained through the voluntary National Aviation Operations Monitoring Study. Critics slammed the agency, saying it was not NASA's role to protect the airlines' public image.

Eventually, NASA capitulated... sort of. As ANN reported, the agency released the data on the last day of 2007. It also took pains to obfuscate the results, so it was impossible for researchers to establish clear trends.

The similarity in reasoning was also noticed by others. "It sounds like the FAA is going back to their early 1990s view that their job is to promote the carriers and look out for their bottom line," said Mary Schiavo, former Transportation Department inspector general.

"They were criticized for that and then said they also were concerned with safety, but this sounds like they're reverting to being cheerleaders for the industry."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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