Bird strike data won't be kept secret
WASHINGTON - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scrapping a proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration that would make secret its data on when and where birds and airplanes collide.
Jill Zuckman, Transportation Department spokeswoman, said yesterday that LaHood believed the public had a right to the information. The nearly 50 public comments in response to the proposal were overwhelmingly opposed to keeping that data secret, she said.
Bird-strike data would be put online soon, probably today or tomorrow, Zuckman said.
Laura Brown, FAA spokeswoman, declined to comment.
FAA officials have said it's necessary to keep specific information from the public because it might discourage voluntary reporting. The information could also be embarrassing to airports with higher numbers.
"To keep this information secret when most every other accident type is reported made no sense at all. Secretary LaHood is making the right call to scrap the FAA's proposal," Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement. Earlier yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a letter disagreeing with the FAA's plan. Mark Rosenker, NTSB acting chairman, said in the letter that withholding the data could hinder the ability of independent researchers to compare the level of bird strikes by airport and airline.
"The safety board believes that public access to all the data in the FAA Wildlife Strike Database is critical to the analysis and mitigation of the wildlife strike problem, and the board strongly disagrees with the FAA's proposal to restrict public access to these data," said the letter.
On Jan. 15, a US Airways jet was forced to land in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of birds shortly after it took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York. The forced landing drew attention to collisions between birds and aircraft.