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Wed, Feb 06, 2008

Congressman Seeks GAO Review Of Air Safety Results

Says "NASA Won't Do The Work"

One lawmaker believes the results of interviews with pilots regarding air safety should finally get the analysis they deserve... and called on the Government Accountability Office to sift through over 24,000 interviews with pilots, conducted over four years under NASA oversight.

"When the public pays for five years of government work designed to help us improve flying safety, I think the public deserves to get a report back on what was learned," Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN) of the House Science and Technology Committee told The Associated Press. "NASA won't do the work, so I am asking the GAO to bring back some answers to the committee that we can then share with the country."

As ANN reported, charges flew in October NASA withheld the results from the National Aviation Operations Monitoring System project, for fear it might upset the flying public and negatively impact the airlines.

Not so, replied NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. The confidential NAOMS data, he asserted, was developed for long-term capability, but was under the guidance of an outside study contractor. Thus, NASA was not involved with the actual data gathering, or with redacting the data to appropriately protect those who volunteered information on air safety standards.

The release of partial data in the waning moments of 2007 came after media requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the AP, and congressional inquiries regarding the study findings.

Since the NAOMS data had been gathered independent of the Aviation Safety Reporting System  -- which protects the pilots who volunteer reports on incidents and infractions under an enforcement statute by the FAA -- NASA chose to not release the raw data. Concerns were that specific events, fight hours, or even locations mentioned could lead back to those who reported.

The FAA also questioned the NAOMS findings, noting "the project's results showing more safety incidents than the FAA's own data, saying it reflected pilots' subjective opinions."

The GAO will compare NAOMS information against the data gathered by the FAA.

At the time of this writing, NASA had received the final reports from the study contractor, and had posted them on NASA's website. Griffin considered the entire project closed by the end of January.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/news/reports/NAOMS.html, www.faa.gov, www.gao.gov, http://gordon.house.gov/

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