(Washington, DC) -The House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) sent a letter to the Acting Director of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) calling on him to work with NASA to reestablish a program to survey professionals in the air traffic system for better insight into air safety problems. Many of the safety problems of the last few months came to light solely because of whistleblowers stepping forward to identify problems in the FAA safety assurance system.
"If not for a handful of whistleblowers willing to risk their careers and step forward to tell what they knew, something far worse than cancelled flights might have occurred," said Miller in the letter. Miller suggest the FAA establish a regular process of anonymously polling employees, and others in the air safety system, to gather information about what is happening in the air and on the ground.
"The American public deserves as many sources of information on safety in the skies as we can reliably provide," said Miller in the letter. "No one knows more about unsafe conditions as they emerge than the people who are on the front lines of air safety: pilots, flight crews, ground crew, and FAA controllers and safety staff."
Miller recommended that FAA discuss with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) relaunching and expanding the National Aviation Operational Monitoring System (NAOMS) survey, including a survey of inspections staff.
NAOMS was a program launched by NASA in 2000 to survey commercial pilots, private pilots, flight crew, ground crew and air traffic employees. NASA operated the survey for three years, expanding it beyond commercial pilots to private pilots. NASA was preparing to extend the survey to FAA employees when it decided to stop the survey program completely, shortly after meetings with FAA managerial staff in 2003.
"The Subcommittee has been told by participants in these meetings that the FAA did not support NAOMS," said Miller in the letter.
The Subcommittee is working to understand the FAA's role in the ending of NAOMS and is requesting all records from between January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2004 related to the NAOMS program.
"If the NASA project had gone forward, that system would now be operational and, through ground crew responses, might have identified the service issues that grounded three airline fleets in the course of three months in a timely fashion so that the costly disruptions of the spring could have been avoided" said Miller in the letter.
For the full text of the letter, or more information on the Committee's work related to the NAOMS program and air safety generally, visit the Committee's website.
For more information, please visit the Committee's website.