Full Committee Hearing - Aviation Safety: Can NASA Do More to Protect the Public?

2318 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Oct 31, 2007 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Opening Statements

Witnesses

Panel 1

Dr. Michael Griffin, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Mr. Jim Hall, Managing Partner, Hall and Associates LLC, and Former Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Panel 2

Mr. Robert S. Dodd, Safety Consultant and President, Dodd & Associates LLC

Dr. Jon A. Krosnick, Frederic O. Glover Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences, Stanford University

Captain Terry McVenes, Executive Air Safety Chairman, Air Line Pilots Association

 

Press Release

NASA TO RELEASE PILOT SURVEY; HALL URGES BALANCE OF TRANSPARENCY, CONFIDENTIALITY

WASHINGTON D.C. - October 31, 2007 – Today in a hearing before the House Committee on Science and Technology, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin agreed to release data from a controversial airline safety study by the end of the year. 

The National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS) study has recently been in the press due to an Associated Press (AP) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Today, Griffin agreed to release the data, once it is appropriately “scrubbed” to protect the anonymity of the pilots who were surveyed.  He also expressed his regret for the language NASA used in responding the FOIA request, saying, “I regret any impression that NASA was in any way trying to put commercial interests ahead of public safety.  That was not and never will be the case.”

Griffin continued, “I have directed that all NAOMS data that does not contain confidential commercial information, or information that could compromise the anonymity of individual pilots, be released as soon as possible.”

Science and Technology Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) praised Administrator Griffin’s candor and commitment to transparency, saying, “I do want to associate myself with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin’s public statement that lays out the agency’s philosophy on the treatment of research data.  Like him, I believe NASA ought to be in the business of putting information in front of the public, not withholding it.

“That being said,” Hall continued, “every care should be taken to protect the identities of survey respondents.  NAOMS promised pilots complete confidentiality to ensure their candid participation, and that ought not be breached.  If information is disclosed that may allow respondents to be identified, there will be a serious chilling effect in future survey efforts funded by the federal government, whether we’re talking about pilots or other citizen groups who provide our government meaningful insight into a whole host of activities.  In the case of NAOMS, we should be cognizant of striking a balance between transparency and confidentiality.”

Echoing the need for stringent confidentiality in order to elicit candid survey responses from pilots, Captain Terry McVenes, Executive Air Safety Chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association, who represents some 60,000 air line pilots, said that, “Regardless of the solution, it is important to keep in mind that raw data, distributed without appropriate analysis and scrutiny to ensure its validity, can lead to unintended consequences…  Just as importantly, if raw data are simply distributed to the general public without the quality controls I’ve mentioned, it would undermine the confidence that pilots and the airline community have that voluntarily and confidentially supplied safety data will remain secure.”

Also testifying at today’s hearing were: Mr. Jim Hall, Managing Partner, Hall and Associates LLC, and Former Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); Mr. Robert S. Dodd, Safety Consultant and President, Dodd & Associates LLC; and Dr. Jon A. Krosnick, Frederic O. Glover Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences, Stanford University.

 

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