Psst! NASA … The Safety Data is Already Public!

By Robert Mark on November 2nd, 2007

NASA’s administrator Michael Griffin said he made a mistake the other day and for many people that was enough. People do make mistakes and he said he was sorry.

Griffin was answering demands from the public and the press about his agency’s refusal to release safety data that might well affect the people who ride on the nation’s air transportations system. The reason for NASA’s refusal was just plain silly … they were afraid they might scare people and damage the system if people heard the truth.

Some nice public affairs person must have gotten to him though by telling him how incredibly stupid that statement made both him and the thousands of smart people at NASA look. This is a place after all, where people really are rocket scientists.

NASA now says it is going to come clean, but I still can’t figure out what the big deal is.

Everyone within the aviation industry knows NASA has been collecting safety data for decades … and it’s OK with us. We’ve been freely offering NASA aviation safety information through the Aviation Safety Reporting System because we thought we were going to help better the industry, not just to expand some huge government database that would never see the light of day. I’m thinking this must all be the same data everyone is talking about. And most of it is already public.

Each time an aviator experenced a problem in the system, two airplanes running too close together in the air or on the ground or anything else that even looked remotely like a safety issue, we’d fill out a form and send it off to NASA to be included in the database. NASA has been publishing the results for years too at their website.

There was one caveat to the reporting of safety items by pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers. Names are separated from the incidents reported. And yes, that’s called immunity.

When the system was built years ago, it was designed around the cocnept that people would be reluctant to share safety data if they thought it might cost them their job, hence the immunity from prosecution.

The only time immunity disappears is in the case of a crew doing something negligent, intentionally. To my knowledge that has never happened.

So now that the cat is out of the bag about the safety bag, the question is, “Hey NASA … What the heck was the bag for in the first place. You have great safety data. Put it to good use. We really need it.”

Or did I miss something here?

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2 Responses to “Psst! NASA … The Safety Data is Already Public!”

  1. Matty Says:

    You missed something…

    It’s my understanding that this NASA study consists of data that is NOT a part of ASRS.

  2. Robert Mark Says:

    I wish I could say I knew that was the case Matty. There seems to be as many people who believe this IS the ASRS data as those who believe it is not.

    I’m still waiting for an update from NASA myself.

    Their public affairs folks seem to be missing in action just when we need them most.

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