NTSB Cargo Crash Data Questioned

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The Herald says its reporters spent nine months researching the story, and in checking thousands of pages of documents, found 12 fatal cargo crashes that had not been counted in NTSB statistics. By the Herald's analysis, there have been 69 fatal crashes and 85 deaths since 2000 in cargo operations. The 12 uncounted by the NTSB occurred during positioning flights, when there was no actual cargo aboard, and thus were classified differently. The newspaper also said that in the course of its investigation, it filed Freedom of Information Act requests for FAA files, examined NTSB dockets, conducted interviews across the country, and reviewed government reports, lawsuits, industry memos, safety studies and news reports. The newspaper believes its conclusions are clear and strongly supported. The Herald says its findings echo those reported in a 2000 study at the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands. Those researchers found a higher rate of fatalities in cargo operations than for passenger flights, and concluded that air cargo is more likely to fly at night, using less-experienced pilots and older airplanes. ''Cargo does not complain," the Dutch report said. "While for passenger aircraft the fact that an aircraft does not look safe or feel safe can be a reason not to choose that particular airline, for cargo aircraft this is not the case ... The need for on-time delivery is often very high."