NASA to archive airlines' flight safety data

After the airline industry's unprecedented decision to release proprietary safety data, nine airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA are building a flight data archive to monitor airline safety.

This September, Columbus, Ohio-based technology company Battelle Memorial Institute will complete the distributed archive of airline flight data and safety reports under NASA’s Aviation Safety Program. NASA officials did not have permission to release the names of the participating airlines.

Last week, NASA announced it had awarded Battelle a five-year, $40.2 million contract, part of which involves finishing a demonstration of the system. The demo began last year.

NASA officials say the archive will help the FAA and airlines discover trends that could compromise safety. The carriers can then use that information to evaluate current safety programs.

The system will analyze aggregated airline performance data and incidents.

“It enables proactive management of systemwide safety risk,” said Irving C. Statler, a research engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, who is managing the project.

Airline names and flight numbers will be removed before analysis so as not to fault individual carriers for specific incidents or performance trends. Airlines will then be able to compare their own data with the industrywide picture.

“The industry has never before agreed to giving access to their proprietary data, nor has it happened yet in Europe," Statler said. All parties settled on rules for information security and privacy.

While the system is being used, NASA will archive all flight-recorded data and all voluntarily submitted incident reports.

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