Should the NTSB Be Tweeting?
As I mentioned in Sunday’s blog, the Asiana crash in San Francisco on Saturday was unusual for being unusual. There just aren’t many Part 121 crashes these days. But it’s unusual for another reason: the NTSB is making effective use of social media, specifically Twitter, to pass on snippets of information as they become available.
But hold on. Should they be doing this? After all, as pilots, we know that investigators need to work unhindered by public pressure and opinion and at a measured, methodical pace. In other words, in relative secrecy. Isn’t a Twitter feed the diametric opposite of this? Yes, it is and seeing the NTSB use it is a breath of fresh air in an age when government snooping and unnecessary secrecy have reached a disgusting crescendo. Seeing a government agency pull back the lid a little is, in my view, an altogether good thing.
So far, investigators have mainly Tweeted schedules and plans, answered questions and provided some key facts from data extracted from the digital recorders. Generally, this is the kind of thing they’ve released at press conferences in the past so all that’s really changed is the distribution method. Press conferences happen on a defined schedule and dump a bunch of information, Twitter streams randomly when the information becomes available and someone feels like pecking out 140 characters. The agency also Tweeted some interesting photos, including one depicting a jumbled mess of seats inside the cabin.
I suppose aviation people who are in a snit about this worry that somehow, the public shouldn’t have this information because it might…might what? Develop an informed opinion before the NTSB does? Go out on the internet and promulgate crackpot theories? Somehow get the jump on the process and sway the accident investigation for nefarious purposes as we so clearly established last week that they did in the TWA 800 investigation. (Note: Sarcasm warning light. Refer to checklist for resolution.) Or perhaps it’s just not, umm, dignified.
This is actually not the first time the NTSB has communicated via Twitter. They’ve been doing it for routine announcements and minor accidents for awhile. But this is the first major accident investigation the agency has had in a while so this is a first and I’m sensing it’s a bit of a trial balloon. Well, the balloon is flying. We should encourage the NTSB to continue if for no other reason than it shows the rest of the government how things should be done. Government in the sunshine is always preferable to the shadows.
Follow the stream here.