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Coverage guide for aviation safety
A Boeing jetliner operated by the airline Asiana crashed and caught fire at San Francisco International Airport on its arrival from Seoul on Saturday, killing at least two people and injuring more than 100 others. The National Transportation Safety Board has announced it will investigate, but it could take years to determine the cause of the crash.
For journalists covering the crash, the IRE Resource Center has an Aviation coverage guide that will help you figure out what background you need to know, what questions to ask and key sources in the aviation industry. In it, you’ll find several tipsheets and story case studies from the IRE archives.
One basic tip from the coverage pack is knowing the lingo of the aviation industry. For starters, here’s the FAA’s pilot/controller glossary and here’s Flightpath, a guide to aviation terms from the Cambridge University Press.
Here’s another tip from the coverage guide: “There are many aspects to aviation. Safety, security, layout of airports, construction of airports, maintenance, design and construction of planes themselves. Focus on the issues you wish to explore. Don’t get sidetracked. But think broadly when beginning your process then focus your story narrowly.”
If you’re interested in digging further into aviation safety issues, the Database Library has a handful of essential data sets:
FAA Accidents and Incidents
This dataset consists of information on aviation accidents and incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.
FAA Aircraft Registry
The Aircraft Registration Database, which is maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aviation Registry, contains information on more than 360,000 registered aircraft, including all aircraft owned by individuals, businesses and government in the United States.
The Federal Aviation Administration Enforcement Information System (EIS) database contains current and historical data on FAA enforcement actions against airlines, pilots, mechanics and their designees.
FAA Service Difficulty Reports
Service Difficulty Reports (SDR) consist of maintenance incidents collected by the FAA for the purpose of tracking repair problems with private, commercial and military aircraft and aircraft componentry. They are largely self-reported by the aircraft owners.
The FAA also has several searchable databases on its website. Here’s a look at a few of them:
Service Difficulty Reports can also be searched online, including operator, make, model, engine, or propeller.
National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Database, which contains information from 1962 and later about civil aviation accidents and selected incidents within the United States, its territories and possessions, and in international waters. You can search by operator, but be careful you know what you’re looking for. For instance, you can search for Asiana Airlines or for Asiana Airlines Inc.
Near midair collisions. A NMAC is an incident associated with the operation of an aircraft in which a possibility of a collision occurs as a result of proximity of less than 500 feet to another aircraft, or a report is received from a pilot or flight crew member stating that a collision hazard existed between two or more aircraft. For example, here’s a search for all near midair collisions involving Boeing 777s.
The World Aircraft Accident Summary, which provides brief details of all known major operational accidents involving air carriers operating jet and turboprop aircraft and helicopters and the larger piston-engined types worldwide. Here’s what a search for Asiana Airlines returns.