|Source||Federal Aviation Administration|
|File Size||1.4 GB (all years)|
|Dates Covered||1990-present (contact NICAR for archived data from 1974)|
|Buy this database||Click here to purchase and download this database|
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 data is reported by tail number and aircraft serial number, so it is possible to trace the maintenance history of a particular airplane with this database.
NICAR provides the data in two ways: As a one-time purchase or, for subscribers, regularly updated. Currently, this is done weekly.
The data lists detailed problems of individual airplanes including a 750-character text field that explains the problem and sometimes the airports involved. It also tracks problems with individual engines or other components.
But the data is considered incomplete, even by the FAA. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that as much as 90 percent of the records may be missing. Many commercial airlines fail to report regularly and some smaller airlines, non-airline commercial aircraft and private aircraft operators seldom report difficulties. Cuts to the FAA budget have gutted its inspection staff and, consequently, there has been little enforcement of reporting rules. Also, reporting requirements differ with the type of operation. Because of differences in reporting, it is difficult to compare repair histories between companies.
Record layouts and samples of this database
|Schema (sdr.pdf)||295.9 KB|
|Main documentation (README.TXT)||9.5 KB|
|Record layout (LAYOUT.TXT)||54.2 KB|
|Data sample (sdr00_12_sample.xls)||140.5 KB|
This package contains a tipsheet for using computer-assisted reporting when covering the aviation community, a sample story from the Seattle Times, sources for covering aviation and sample documents from the Federal Aviation Administration. Audio tape is available for purchase from the IRE Resource Center. Contact us at (573) 882-3364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. --ask for tape #14.
Engine No. 9
This handout gives great pointers for dealing with transportation databases. Aviation, U.S. Department of Transportation - Planes and Trains, Marine and Highway databases are discussed. There is also a two-page listing of stories that have been done using these databases itemizing publication, date of publication and databases used. Audio tape is available for purchase from the IRE Resource Center. Contact us at (573) 882-3364 or email@example.com.
Aviation Safety Tip Sheet
This tipsheet lists Internet resources for covering aviation safety.
Covering a Plane Crash
Great source of information when trying to cover a plane crash. Includes what to do when it's a small crash compared to a major crash. Also included is a list of sources around the country and on the internet. A story which is not available for download concerning the crash investigation of flight 427 is also provided.
Aviation Security: Tracking data & paper
Marchak of the Plain Dealer how to work off deadline on the aviation beat. The handout offers tips how to put in use GAO reports and other audits, and how the Federal Aviation Administration works.
Polk Seminar on Public Safety
This 11-point tip sheet offers helpful advice on how and when to use data in the event of an airline crash, how to prepare the newsroom, which agencies are helpful sources of information.
Plane Crash Databases
This handout contains a list of databases useful for journalists covering plane crashes. This tipsheet also lists several queries to make and the different forms that are available.
Nuts and Bolts of Aviation Safety
This tipsheet gives a list of data useful for covering aviation safety and explains how each can be helpful for journalists. The tipsheet also includes a check-list of what to do when a plane crashes to help the reporter find the information he or she is looking for more easily.
The 737's Rudder-Control Concerns
The fall 1994 crash of USAir 427 prompted the Seattle Times to launch an investigation into Boeing 737 jetliners. The rudder system on the 737's can sometimes malfunction and make the airplane dangerously difficult to control. A USAir 737 crashed near Pittsburgh last September, killing all 132 passengers. United has accelerated replacement of a 737 rudder-system part in which investigators have found defects.
Craft had history of problems
This same-day story notes the record of equipment defects for a DC-9 cargo plane that crashed during takeoff. A review of 32 FAA Service Difficulty Reports on the plane filed by its operator noted landing gear malfunctions, cracks and corrosion in the plane structure, and loose, cracked, stripped or frozen parts in the landing gear door, cabin and cargo doors.
Fewer Crashes Caused by Pilots
This USA Today analysis of 22 years of crash data and several dozen interviews shows that the number of commercial airplane crashes caused by pilot error has decreased substantially. However, plenty of crashes are still occurring, they are just caused by poor maintenance. The federal government required minimal training for mechanics after they've been licensed, and the airplane industry often opposes improvements in maintenance because they are too costly. The article has a lot of good statistics about airplane crashes.