IT central to FAA safety program

The Federal Aviation Administration unveiled a safety initiative today that it hopes will reduce the number of fatal aviation accidents fivefold by relying heavily on new technology.

The Safer Skies initiative will prevent the leading causes of fatalities and injuries by expanding engine inspections and by requiring terrain warning systems in most planes. This will "significantly reduce the number of plane crashes and save hundreds and hundreds of lives," Vice President Al Gore said.

By 2001, the FAA will require all airplanes with six or more passengers to install a terrain awareness and warning system, which warns a pilot of potentially hazardous terrain ahead, such as mountains. Controlled flight into terrain is the third leading cause of fatal aircraft accidents in the United States.

Integral to the agency's safety initiative is the way in which the FAA will use and analyze data stored in databases. The FAA will analyze data it collects, as well as data collected by the National Transportation Safety Board, corporations and other international organizations to confirm the root causes of accidents so that the agency can prevent such accidents from happening in the future. "It's at the heart of the advances we are announcing," Gore said.

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