Nuts-and-bolts FAA site provides wealth of data

Despite the increased use of tools and technologies to add superficial glitz and pizazz to federal Web sites the public still pounces on those providing timely relevant or valuable information. Take a look at the Federal Aviation Administration's Aviation Safety Data site which opened for business last week and had a hard time keeping up with the traffic.

The site (nasdac.faa.gov/internet) which offers useful safety information on carriers and airports packs its punch with information not Java bells and whistles. The crisp no-nonsense design logically steers users to the National Transportation Safety Board's Aviation Accident/Incident Database and the FAA's Incident Data System. The page makes it easy to search this information just click on the "Search the Databases" bar and click again on the next page for the database you want.

Up pops a Web form that allows users to search by word or phrase airport aircraft registration number and other terms. By typing in the words "United Airlines " the incident database chugs away quickly locating relevant files. Click on one of the files and you end up with a record detailing the highlights of incidents and accidents including the aircraft number of passengers and severity of the accident.

Because this is the first time the FAA has provided such information in an easily accessible format the agency went to some length to dispel paranoia. In the database tutorial also easily accessible from the main Aviation Safety Data page the FAA cautioned that "the definition of an aviation accident is very broad. It can involve events that range in severity from a flight attendant receiving a broken ankle...to the catastrophic loss of one or more aircraft and hundreds of lives."

After checking out the Safety Data page cruise back to the main FAA Web page (www.faa.gov) which has undergone a major upgrade by Webmaster Heather McQuigg. This page features clickable bars on the left side and provides easy access to a wealth of FAA- and aviation-related information.

Frequent fliers would do well to bookmark the "Other Aviation Sites" (www.faa.gov.other.htm) button which offers one of the best sets of links to airports and airlines on the Web. While many travel-related sites offer links to major airlines such as TWA and Delta Air Lines few offer the comprehensive list provided by the FAA which includes not only major carriers but also obscure ones such as Airumbia and Transwede Airways.

Click on the "Centers and Regions" bar and you zoom to links that offer easy access to Web services hosted by FAA centers nationwide. The Alaskan Region (www.mmac.jccbi.gov/aal) is the best of the lot. This is an information-packed site - perhaps reflecting the key role of aviation in Alaska - that serves public and internal FAA users well.

The Aviator's Toolbox (www.mmac.jccbi.gov/aal/tools/index.htm) provides pilots with quick access to active and useful links. These include terminal forecasts at 36 locations surface observations at 116 an Alaskan airport and Navaids directory and links to FAA regulations and circulars. The FAA Alaskan Region packed the Employees' Toolbox (www.mmac.jccbi.gov/aal/hrm/index.html) with equally relevant information. Active links include a listing of FAA jobs in the region and nation pay scales details of a thrift savings plan and information on retirement and family and medical leave.

The FAA Alaskan Region Web site as well as the Aviation Safety Data page stand out as prime examples of how to deliver timely and valuable information in a Web environment populated by pages that overwhelm users with technobaubles.

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