Aviation Week Reports Unanimous Criticism of NASA Safety

Press Release From: Aviation Week
Posted: Friday, May 9, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC -- Aviation Week & Space Technology reports in its May 12 issue that out of about 60 key NASA and contractor managers and technicians interviewed by the Columbia Accident Board on shuttle safety, "not a single person said that the NASA quality program is where it ought to be", investigators told the magazine.

AW&ST reports that as a result of this and other assessments, the Columbia Accident Board will site serious deficiencies in NASA's overall safety program as a root cause or significant contributing factor to the Feb. 1 loss of shuttle Columbia and her seven astronauts. Those killed included Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon.

The deficiencies include a lack of effectiveness on how NASA carried out the U.S. government's responsibility for broad safety oversight when it transferred more specific quality control duties to the shuttle prime contractor United Space Alliance.

The finding is likely to draw substantial interest by the Bush Administration and Congressional oversight committees about NASA fulfillment of its government mandated safety responsibilities, AW&ST said.

Among the NASA deficiencies that will be cited by the Accident Board is a lack of NASA internal scrutiny of the agency's own safety program, according to AW&ST.

"There is no automatic program review" required periodically of NASA's own safety efforts. There is no overall NASA process "to address what we are not doing that we should be doing," an investigator told the magazine.

AW&ST also reports that NASA's own internal post-Columbia accident review has begun to reveal details on past safety related events that did not result in incidents, but could have.

The Accident Board has been preliminarily briefed on one case where NASA decided not to replace a "Criticality-1"-related component that had been showing anomalous behavior. These so-called Crit-1 components have life or death implications for shuttle astronauts.

The component in question then did fail during the launch of shuttle Mission STS-112 last October, but a redundant system prevented a launch catastrophe, AW&ST reported.

About Aviation Week

With nearly 50 products and services and an audience of more than 1 million professionals and enthusiasts, the AVIATION WEEK division of The McGraw-Hill Companies is the largest multimedia information provider to the global aviation and aerospace industry. Its web portal,, offers the industry's most reliable and comprehensive real-time news, professional information and e-business features.

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, BusinessWeek and McGraw-Hill Education. The Corporation has more than more than 320 offices in 34 countries. Sales in 2002 were $4.8 billion. Additional information is available at

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