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Safe Data, Safer Skies

On Oct. 31, ARSA urged the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to affirm its commitment to protect voluntarily-submitted safety information from disclosure to the public.

The association submitted comments to an NTSB-issued Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requesting that NTSB clarify that voluntarily submitted safety information will continue to be exempt from disclosure when it meets established Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other statutory and regulatory protections, even if there is a pending investigation.

In 2012, the NTSB issued a Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules, focusing on regulations governing the Board’s investigation procedures, codified in Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 831. As a part of that review, the Board issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in August 2014. The NPRM included reorganizing part 831 into mode-specific subparts, adding a list of transportation events investigated under part 831 and the replacing the use of “accident or incident” with “event.”

Through comments made to the 2012 plan, the public had already encouraged the NTSB to strengthen § 831.6‘s protection of voluntarily submitted safety information. In the preamble to the NPRM the Board responded that it is “uncertain that it could withhold voluntarily provided information in response to a request under the FOIA, unless the NTSB had a statutory exemption permitting it to do so.”

ARSA is troubled by this statement of uncertainty. Voluntary submissions of safety data help foster safer skies and protection of that information is critical to the continued success of safety information sharing systems.



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