NASA Will Release "Secret" Pilot Safety Survey

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After being inundated with criticism from all sides after a NASA official refused to release safety data to an Associated Press reporter who requested it, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told a congressional panel on Wednesday that the information will be made public after all (PDF). "I regret any impression that NASA was or would in any way try to put commercial interests ahead of public safety," NASA's administrator, Michael Griffin, told the House Science Committee. "That was not and never will be the case." The official who denied the reporter's request had said the information might scare people away from flying and hurt the industry. Griffin said that under federal law, "NASA is required to protect confidential commercial information that is voluntarily provided to the agency and would not customarily be released to the public." But, he said, all of the data from the safety survey that does not contain confidential commercial information, or information that could compromise the anonymity of individual pilots, will be released as soon as possible.

"The release of this data will be accompanied with the proviso that neither the methodology nor the results have received the level of peer review required of a NASA research project," Griffin said. Captain Terry McVenes, executive air safety chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association, told the committee the raw data should not be released (PDF). "Raw data, distributed without appropriate analysis and scrutiny to ensure its validity, can lead to unintended consequences," he said. "Incomplete or inaccurate conclusions can be reached." A final report from a contractor analyzing the data is expected by Dec. 31, Griffin said, and NASA will make that report available to any interested party.