NASA Employees Defend Study

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The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the union representing NASA employees who oversaw a controversial pilot safety study, says it was done properly and the data is valid, contrary to NASA Administrator Michael Griffinís statements to Congress a month ago, according to an Associated Press story. Griffin appeared before a House oversight committee Oct. 31 and said, among other things, that the National Aviation Operations Monitoring System (NAOMS) was flawed because the 8,000 commercial and private pilots were surveyed anonymously and that could have resulted in duplication of safety-related incidents being reported. The contractor that did the study has also defended the veracity of the data, at least some of which is unlikely to be made public because NASA says doing so would violate the confidentiality promises it made. NASA originally intended to keep all the survey results secret but came under pressure from the media and Congress to share what it found out. The data apparently show a much higher rate of safety-related incidents than show up in FAA reports.

The union, in a letter to the House Science and Technology Committee, said it did its own analysis of the events and found "no valid scientific basis for the administrator's technical criticism." It said keeping the results buried would amount to a waste of millions of dollars and the loss of years of "valuable aviation safety research and development because of repeated judgment failures by NASA's senior leadership." NASA spokesman David Mould said the agency is standing behind its boss. "If someone disagrees, we still believe what we said. It was correct," he said. Union spokesman Matt Biggs suggested the comments by Griffin about the alleged flaws in the study were taken personally by his members. [Itís] "like getting shot in the back by your commanding officer," Biggs said.