Are we ‘furloughing’ the wrong activities at NTSB and NASA (ASRS)?

I will admit right up front: I had serious doubts about that one printed comment. I was researching the recent Santa Monica jet crash. While landing, the aircraft veered into a hangar and caused a large fire, killing four. So, when I  read one commenter claiming NTSB had departed the accident scene, I figured it was probably incorrect. The crash happened on the evening of the 29th, and ‘Shutstorm 2013!’ did not commence until the 1st, so NTSB might have collected enough evidence to leave anyway by the 1st or 2nd.

I learned more today, and it does not look right. Two examples: NTSB, and NASA.

NASA: … Anyone in aviation knows that the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) managed by NASA is the premier program for sharing lessons learned (and a few confessions), and it has had a huge positive safety impact. Pilots make voluntary reports to the system, and pilots can do queries to view other de-identified reports within the system. More than a million reports have been collected. But, pilots cannot access that valuable database if NASA turns it off. Well, despite the fact that it seemingly costs almost nothing for NASA to keep the database query functioning, they shut it down. Here’s a screen print:

NTSB: … And then there is NSTB. They have done a fantastic job this year, streaming information to the larger Public, and pushing FAA to focus more on REAL SAFETY (not just the same old slogans). But NTSB is reportedly NOT conducting accident investigations, due to ‘Shutstorm 2013!’.

There was a fatal crash into the mountains between Palm Springs and San Diego, at roughly 6:15PM on Wednesday, October 9th. This fatal crash appears to have been a weather accident, possible scud-running, and possible severe turbulence and/or windshear driving the Mooney into the terrain. Given the likelihood that weather patterns are intensifying related to CO2 and climate change, NTSB should be making a very high priority to catch the evidence early, and not have to wait for another similar fatal accident to finally discover what these pilots need to learn. Let’s not forget, it was only a few decades ago that we learned about windshear and microbursts, through a series of multi-fatal airline accidents. We were dealing with a weather unknown then, just as we may be today, though this time it may be related to climate change.

Look, Congress is being a closed circle of jerks, but that should not stop NTSB professionals — who happen to be government employees — from doing the work they are trained to do. And yes, agencies may have to trim out some spending. But, some activities are so at the core — so critical — that they should be the last to be halted. For NTSB, if we see ten general aviation (GA) fatal accidents in the next three weeks, there will probably be one or two that should NOT be ignored.

Many GA accidents are easily set aside; the latest Mooney crash near Julian, CA is not one to set aside. It needs to be investigated. Just look at this picture and ponder the viewable debris distribution, the aircraft condition, the position of the trees. This was a different kind of accident, and trained eyes need to document it. What kind of storm did it get caught in?

As for that other storm, in Congress … so very bizarre. Three decades ago, the controllers went on strike and President Reagan fired the majority of them. Today, Boehner et al are handing all agencies a ‘get out of jail free’ card and all but begging them to go on strike shut down.  Even the best agencies (e.g., NTSB) are making bone-headed calls and failing to serve, and nobody is stopping them.

Yeah, the Gipper famously killed strikes, but today’s GOP is leading strikes! My, how the  times have changed…