NYT Makes Case For NASA's Withholding Of Safety Survey
Last year, passengers flew 760
million times on airline flights in the United States, with just
one death -- a mechanic who fell while trying to close the door of
a parked Boeing 737.
Flying is safer than passengers think, according to FAA
statistics... which is likely why the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration is reluctant to release a safety survey noting
more incidents of near-misses and bird strikes, The New York Times
As ANN reported, NASA refused
to release the results of a survey of 8,000 commercial pilots that
sought to track safety problems and determine if they were
worsening. The reason being, the agency didn't want to scare
The Associated Press sought the same data under the Freedom of
Information Act. In refusing to turn it over, NASA told the AP
releasing the data "could materially affect the public confidence
in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general
aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey."
NASA’s response is nothing new for the federal
government... which has traditionally said as little as possible
about the safety of individual airports or airlines.
The Federal Aviation Administration was originally founded in
part to promote aviation -- though in 1996, Congress removed that
mission because it conflicted with the agency’s role as a
regulator. But there still is tension that remains in cases where
data might raise public apprehension about air travel.
Some economists have been able to quantify that fear. After Pan
Am 103 was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, trans-Atlantic
passenger traffic fell by 20 percent in the next year. The FAA
published that figure in a risk/benefit analysis in July 2001 to
justify the rule.
The FAA justifies the benefit of keeping bombs off planes so
travelers won’t be frightened into staying at home; they call
it "the known reaction of Americans to any aircraft operator
The Times reports the FAA plans to change the way it compiles
statistics on aviation-related deaths. Only passengers and members
of the crew will be counted. Mechanics have been eliminated from
the tabulation... which, the agency believes, should paint a safer
picture of the industry.