Shocking air safety breaches emerge nationwide in data analysis

See related content: NASA fields growing number of air-safety reports with limited staffBy Brant Houston, Investigative News Network; Robert McClure, InvestigateWest; and Kevin Crowe, The Watchdog InstituteA commercial airline pilot en route to San Diego International Airport looks out a window at 10,800 feet and sees a Lockheed S-3 Viking Navy jet coming right at him. “The captain quickly pulled up on the control column to avoid hitting the S3,” the co-pilot wrote in a report filed with federal officials. “He turned his head to the right, which made me look out of my window on the right. And the window was full of the S3.” The two planes passed within about 100 feet of each other. This is just one of thousands of examples of near-misses, bad communications, equipment failures, wildlife hits and sometimes just silly but dangerous errors contained in an aviation safety database collected and analyzed by NASA. A six-month examination of more than 150,000 reports filed by pilots and others in the aviation industry over the past 20 years reveals surprising and sometimes shocking safety breaches and close calls at local, regional and major airports throughout the country. A consortium of journalists working at six nonprofit investigative centers across the U.S. reviewed the records with Investigative News Network, of which they are members, and National Public Radio. To put the confidential reports into context, the journalists did extensive data analysis of the reports and conducted scores of interviews with pilots, air traffic controllers and aviation safety experts.