(Washington, DC) Several leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology today urged NASA to speed the release of data on the safety of the nation's air travel system.
Full Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), along with Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO), Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) penned a letter to NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin asking for further explanation as to why the data - which NASA self-describes as having only a few instances of references to specific airlines - is taking so long to be publicly released.
On October 31, the Committee held a hearing on this matter after the Associated Press reported NASA's refusal to release the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS) survey data. NAOMS was an air safety survey of 24,000 of the nation's airline pilots, conducted over a number of years. NASA refused a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the data citing it "could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of the air carriers..."
Committee Members called NASA's refusal "troubling" and "unconvincing." Administrator Griffin announced at the October 31 hearing that NASA would release the NOAMS data, reversing NASA's earlier stance. Now however, NASA is claiming that the data may not be fully released for up to a year from now.
In their letter today to Dr. Griffin, Committee leaders noted that, "...we are troubled by NASA's plan to take up to a year to complete the release of the NAOMS data, and we consider such a delay to be totally unacceptable."
A copy of the letter to Dr. Griffin is attached. A copy can also be read by clicking here.
If it had been rolled out operationally, NAOMS would have integrated continuous survey data from pilots, ground controllers, ground crews and cabin crew to create a complete picture of what is happening in the air safety system nationally. This information would not be driven by adverse events and would have a statistical rigor that the self-reporting anecdotal systems lack. As a result, safety experts could mine the data for insights into new safety threats as they emerge.
Information from the October 31 hearing and other information on this topic can be found on the Committee's website.