NTSB gives accident details; Senate offers virtual tours

Numerous federal agencies use the World Wide Web to give the public access to research that an agency has conducted. The National Transportation Safety Board is one agency that has posted information that any person who travels by boat, train, plane or automobile would be interested in: all accident reports and safety studies from 1996 through 1998 for all transportation modes.

Point your browser to www.ntsb.gov/publictn/publictn.htm to take a peek at NTSB's complete accident reports, which include the probable cause, recommendations and conclusions that are offered before paper reports are printed. Examples of recent reports filed to the site include a personal watercraft safety study, the accident report from a cruise ship accident and the details of a gasoline truck collision in New York.

Click on the New icon at the top of the page to access these reports, which have innocent names but hide horrifying accidents such as these aviation mishaps: "runway departure," "icing encounter" and "impact with terrain." Do not expect any glitz or graphics; it's all text here. But the detailed reports are well-organized by date of release and mode of transportation. Users will need the Adobe Systems Inc. Acrobat Reader to access the newly posted reports.

For example, the site contains accident reports that detail the fatal 1996 ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades and the engine failure of a Delta airplane in Pensacola, Fla. The ValuJet report contains a chilling report about the crew's last conversation with air traffic controllers, a review of events proceeding the accident and details of the oxygen containers that ignited the fire in the cargo hold, causing the plane to crash.

For more details on the board's other publications, click on the various modes of transportation listed at the bottom of the Web page. The Aviation section contains accident synopses dating back to 1983, aviation accident statistics, needed aviation safety improvements and transcripts from recent public hearings.

Senate Virtual Reality

For Washington, D.C., residents, do you ever glance at the throngs of tourists who have descended on the nation's capital and think that, despite being a resident, you may not have seen all the city's historical venues? Don't despair; take a virtual reality tour.

For example, point your browser to www.senate.gov/curator/qtvr_tour.qtvr.htm to take a virtual tour of various areas of the Senate. First, pick which area of the Capitol you would like to "tour." Click on the Old Supreme Court Chamber to learn about the history of the room where the Supreme Court met from 1810 to 1860.

Users need QuickTime to take the tour, which is a panoramic, moving view of the room, guided with a browser. This area also includes textual summaries of important cases that occurred in the room, such as Dred Scott and Amistad.

It also features photos and descriptions of art and historical objects in the chamber, offering all the images and data you need to feel as though you have actually visited the room. The site also offers virtual tours of the old Senate chamber, the current Senate chamber and the president's room.

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