Monday, October 29, 2007

The aviation "near miss" problem

Flaming airplane collisions are a relatively blunt instrument for aviation safety measurement.

Airlines can cut a lot of corners, stress the aviation system considerably, and still go years without a big newsworthy wreck. So the wrecks will happen faster than they ought to, but probably not fast enough to perturb the public.

It might be better to detect gross problems sooner. Which is why this AP story on NASA's suppression of aviation risk data got a brief bit of attention ...
The Associated Press: NASA Chief Regrets Agency's Statement

...Among other results, the pilots reported at least twice as many bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway incursions as other government monitoring systems show, according to a person familiar with the results who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

The revelations this week prompted the House Science and Technology Committee to launch an investigation into NASA's decisions, with a public hearing scheduled for next Wednesday...
I gather all the near misses are not being reported. Perhaps airlines don't like their pilots relaying bad news, so they find ways to discourage it. We need the study results to understand the problem.

Of course the Bush administration hates bad news too, and they hate the thought of government having a job to do. So it's understandable that a NASA administrator might prefer to bury this report

Which brings me to the motivation for this post. Yesterday my wife's NWA small jet flight from Dallas got within about 25 feet of the runway at MSP before making a rather steep climb to cruising altitude.

Seems something was on the runway that shouldn't have been.

I wonder if that near miss was reported.

Oh well, the collapse in aviation safety is probably one of the lesser sins of the GOP. Eventually the market will sort things out.

Any resemblance to problems with childhood toys and the human and canine food supplies are completely coincidental.

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