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NASA needs a reminder that it serves the people, not itself

January 17, 2008
NASA finally has released some information it obtained in a survey of about 8,000 pilots — but only after an outraged public demanded that it do so. The more that is learned about the study, the more upset Americans should be concerning NASA’s stance.

Pilots were asked by NASA to report on how many times from 2001 through 2004 they encountered a variety of “safety events.” Results, still to be reported in depth, apparently were alarming. NASA officials at first refused to make the results of the survey public — because they were afraid the report would undermine the public’s confidence in commercial air travel.

Now, it has been reported that after receiving information from the pilots, NASA changed its original plan for the study. It was to have surveyed flight attendants and air traffic controllers, too, but that plan was scrapped after the worrisome results were received from pilots.

Clearly, responses from others in the aviation industry, especially air traffic controllers, would have been instructive. But NASA — possibly still concerned about alarming the public — did not proceed.

NASA, like any other federal agency, is supposed to serve the people, not any business or industry. It may be time for Congress to remind the agency of that.



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