NIOSH begins survey of pilots, air services

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is asking commercial pilots and air taxi operators for information that could help prevent fatal plane crashes.

The agency began mailing a safety survey this month to learn more about what those in the aviation industry think could be done to prevent fatalities.

Plane crashes have been the leading cause of occupational fatalities in Alaska in recent years. An Alaska pilot has a 1-in-8 chance of dying on the job during a 30-year career. That's 100 times greater than the average U.S. worker.

The survey is being done as part of a three-year effort intended to reduce occupational fatalities in plane crashes by 50 percent over the next decade.

''This is the first major opportunity for public and industry input into this initiative,'' said Dr. George Conway, head of the NIOSH office in Alaska.

More than 200 air carriers and 400 pilots will be asked to fill out the voluntary, random survey.

The goal is to get a better understanding of current industry practices and concerns, Conway said. The questionnaire asks about training, scheduling, safety practices and other issues.

The $100,000 survey is being done with help from the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Conway says the university is compiling all the data. The identities of those responding will be kept anonymous so they can be frank, without fear of coming under increased scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration.

''We've built in buffers,'' Conway said. ''There's no potential for administrative action or any sort of bad things happening as a result of their responses.''

Conway expects to have preliminary results of the survey by November.

Alaska averages roughly one aviation accident every day and a fatal crash every ten days. Of those deaths, roughly half are classified as occupational, with pilots making up about half of those occupational deaths, Conway said.

The Alaska Air Carriers Association, a group that represents 165 commercial carriers, is encouraging its members to respond to the survey.

''I really think it's a good way to gain more information and to continue to provide safety education for our commercial carriers,'' said, Karen Casanovas, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association.

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