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LaHood Rejects FAA Plan to Keep Bird-Strike Data Secret

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In a policy shift, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the FAA will now make records of bird strikes near airports open to the public.

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By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday rejected a proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration to keep reports about bird strikes on airplanes secret.

The FAA quietly posted the proposal in the Federal Register last month and requested public comment. The agency immediately came under fire for the proposal, which came on the heels of an incident in January in which a flock of geese brought down a US Airways flight, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River.

LaHood, whose agency oversees the FAA, said that public comments ran "99.9 percent" in favor of making such information accessible.

"I think all of this information ought to be made public. . . . We're going to, you know, make this information as public as anybody wants it," LaHood said in an interview for The Washington Post's "New Voices of Power" video series. "The people should have access to this kind of information," he said.

LaHood said that FAA efforts to keep information about bird strikes secret "doesn't really comport with the president's idea of transparency."

"I mean, here they just released all of these CIA files regarding interrogation, and . . . the optic of us trying to tell people they can't have information about birds flying around airports, I don't think that really quite comports with the policies of the administration," he said. "It's something that somebody wanted to put out there to get a reaction. We got the reaction, and now we're going to bring it to conclusion."

The National Transportation Safety Board also weighed in with a letter from its acting chairman, Mark V. Rosenker, telling the FAA that withholding the data could interfere with independent researchers' ability to study and compare bird strikes at various airports and among different airlines.

The FAA had proposed keeping the collision data private out of concern that airlines and airports would be reluctant to voluntarily report the strikes for fear of hurting business.

The data will be posted online tomorrow, said DOT spokeswoman Jill Zuckman. Zuckman added that in light of the public comments, the FAA was in agreement that the data should be made public. "It's a legitimate concern to worry about whether we will continue to get reports, and it's something we will monitor closely," she said. "If everyone stops giving us information, then we have to decide where to go next."

The interview with LaHood will be posted online tomorrow at washingtonpost.com/voices-of-power.


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