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After several years of negotiations, the NICAR Database Library has updated its copy of the FAA Enforcement Information System. This useful database documents cases where airlines, airports and pilots are accused of breaking FAA Regulations -- examples include drug-test failures and alcohol abuse on the job.
Only two months into 2009, there have already been two major airplane crashes that have attracted heavy media attention. When covering such events, reporters have the opportunity to get at the "how" and "why" of the story by using some of the Federal Aviation Administration's public databases. While many of these databases are freely available on the World Wide Web, the Database Library has recently updated a key dataset that, quite frankly, was very difficult to get. The FAA's Web site -- normally a good source of government information -- does not serve the enforcement database.
It's important to note that the newest copy of this dataset has plenty of information redacted -- almost six in 10 records have the accused individual's name expunged. However, most of the records contain information about the airline involved, the location of the incident, what rule was allegedly broken and what the FAA ultimately did with the case.
Despite the data's limitations, this is the sort of thing that makes the Database Library a useful resource for IRE members. Independently seeking this database through the Freedom of Information Act, and cleaning it up so it can be used in a modern database manager, would take up an enormous amount of time. We are proud to be able to serve our members by making data much, much easier to obtain.
-- Jeremy Milarsky
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