NASA administrator Michael Griffin hinted today that the agency may finally release a controversial pilot survey that reportedly indicates that aircraft near-misses, runway incursions and other safety incidents happen far more often than generally recognized.
Here's what the Associated Press is reporting:
Griffin was scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill about the agency's efforts to keep its research secret. In a letter to lawmakers in advance of the hearing, he said Congress can review the project data but that any confidential commercial information must be removed before it can be released publicly.
On Tuesday, Griffin bowed to a request from the lawmakers and sent copies of the raw data — contained on four CDs — to the House Science and Technology Committee.
Griffin previously expressed regret over NASA's assertion that revealing the survey findings could damage the public's confidence in airlines and affect airline profits. NASA cited those reasons in refusing to turn over the survey data to the AP, which sought the information over 14 months under the Freedom of Information Act. Griffin has directed his agency to reconsider its denial for the data to the AP.
"NASA believes that the data contains both confidential commercial data and information that could compromise anonymity that should be redacted prior to public release," Griffin wrote to Congress.
Officials who have worked on the survey, however, have said it contains no pilot names or airline names. The questionnaire asked pilots to state how many times in the previous 60 days they had encountered a wide range of problems with equipment, weather, tower communication and other safety issues.