aviation regulators and accident investigators both appear to be searching for
ways to resolve a previously reported dispute over who should have access to
safety data that airlines voluntary provide to the government, according to federal
and industry officials.
weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation
Safety Board have sparred over what information board investigators should gain
access to regarding safety lapses by U.S. airlines over the years. The NTSB has
sought such material, previously voluntarily disclosed by airlines and pilots,
as part of its ongoing probe of an American Airlines Boeing 757 jetliner that
ran off the end of a runway last December in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
was hurt, but safety board investigators are looking into why certain panels on
top of the wings failed to automatically deploy as usual to help slow the
plane. The board also wants to determine why the panels, sometimes called speed
brakes or spoilers, weren’t manually deployed as safety and operational rules
Corp.’s American Airlines unit has declined to comment on precisely what
final compromise about the data at issue, these people said, is likely to take
some time and could still end up being blocked by strong feelings in both
camps. The bureaucratic, inside-the-Beltway flap has potentially important
policy implications, however, because it could set a precedent about the scope
of the safety board’s activities in the future.
board’s chairman has talked about getting broad access to incident data
historically off-limits to NTSB accident investigators.
FAA and industry officials, on the other hand, worry that such a policy
reversal could chill collection of voluntary safety data. In return for
obtaining a steady stream of voluntary safety data, FAA officials for more than
a decade have promised they typically won’t use the disclosures to punish or
publicly embarrass airlines or pilots.
several industry and government officials initially said the board wanted full
access to specific incident data, others familiar with the matter recently said
the NTSB’s official request is for “summary data” that doesn’t
identify specific flights or demand other data that could result in public
disclosure of mistakes previously reported by individual carriers or pilots.
FAA, for its part, initially reacted coolly to the board’s request, with some
agency officials hinting they were poised to reject it. But last week,
government officials clarified the latest status and tenor of the fluid
discussions. The FAA, according to these officials, has stopped short of
formally making any decision, referring the issue instead to a high-level group
of industry and government safety experts.
board wants the historical information to determine trends about safety system
malfunctions and pilot mistakes that led to runway incidents similar to the
far, the board hasn’t officially indicated what theories it is pursuing in the
American AIrlines incident.
officials have declined to comment on the agency’s position.
recently, the FAA’s discussions with the safety board became less tense and
more cordial, according to several people close to the developments.
current sense is that with some common sense and care, this can be worked out
to everyone’s satisfaction,” according to one veteran government expert
familiar with the details.
Source: WALL STREET JOURNAL