Redacted! NASA airline safety study released — sorta

NASA made good on its promise to release its airline safety survey by the end of the year, but did little more than post 6,208 pages of heavily-redacted — and ultimately meaningless — data on its Web site on the slowest news day of the year.

The Associated Press has an insightful writeup of this non-event. But as usual, it isn’t what the government said about aviation safety that’s significant. It’s the outside reaction that’s worth noting.

The Air Transport Association, the trade group for the airline industry, sent out a prepared statement almost as soon as the data was published. Almost as if they knew what was going to be said.

Lobbyist-in-chief James May offered these canned words to commemorate the event:

The United States has the safest air transportation system in the world, in large part due to the absolute commitment by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airline industry to safety, including the proactive use of safety data and analysis.

And you know what, now we can all go back to believing May’s spin. Because the NASA study, which allegedly showed that near collisions and runway interference happen much more frequently than previously recognized, did not show any such dangers. Didn’t really show anything at all, for that matter.

Another group with an apparent heads-up on NASAs non-news was the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology, which issued a statement urging NASA “not delay in their complete release of the data.”

Here’s Chairman Chairman Bart Gordon:

NASA itself concedes that this is not the most complete data set that they intend to release. I expect NASA to complete the data release process as soon as possible. Excessive delay would be in no one’s best interest.

Perhaps the only agency with an interest in all of this that didn’t have a preview of NASA’s censored report was the FAA. On Friday, it cast doubts on the accuracy of the NASA data. Had it know that there was nothing to worry about, I doubt it would have made those statements.

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So why does any of this matter? Well, you think air travel is safe, right?

What if it isn’t?

Think about it. Would you really trust the lives of you and your family to a company that is operating its planes unsafely?

It’s time for NASA to release all the data in a format that can be easily understood by the general public. Name names.

Our taxpayer dollars fund NASA. This is our data.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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