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Fri, Dec 21, 2007

Congress Urges NASA To Restart Pilot Safety Survey

Agency Still Dealing With Fallout From Withholding Results

Not only should NASA finally get around to publicly releasing the results of a controversial $11.3 million federal air safety survey of pilots, lawmakers said this week, the agency should also consider resuming the survey to detect more potential air safety issues.

As ANN reported, NASA spent nearly four years conducting telephone surveys of some 29,000 commercial and general aviation pilots as part of the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service, asking them about near misses in the air and on runways and cases in which air traffic controllers changed landing instructions at the last second.

News the agency withheld the results of the survey was reported in October by the Associated Press, which tried unsuccessfully to obtain the survey results under the Freedom of Information Act over a 14-month period.

On October 31, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the agency would release some results from the study by the end of the year. (That hasn't happened yet -- Ed.)

Language calling for the resumption of the survey was included by Congressional budget writers in the massive omnibus budget bill for government agencies, according to AP. Lawmakers directed NASA to spend some of its $625 million for aeronautics research on studying the results, with an eye towards restarting the survey.

The bill doesn't carry any legal weight, per se... but it does show what Congress thinks of the matter.

A NASA spokesman declined to comment Wednesday. In statements before a Congressional hearing in October, Griffin defended the agency's withholding of the results on the basis the program wasn't managed well, and the results weren't verified.

FMI: www.congress.gov, www.nasa.gov

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