Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "airplanes" ...

  • Blowing the Whistle on Aviation

    Our exclusive eleven-month investigation into aviation safety uncovered a corrupt culture of safety at major airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration that mechanics and FAA employees feared could be putting the flying public at risk. Before there was any reporting on the FAA related to Boeing’s 737 Max, we explored the overly cozy relationship between the FAA and airlines - highlighting the FAA’s lack of oversight on regulatory issues that would later lead to hundreds of deaths overseas and the grounding of all 737 Max airplanes.
  • 60 Minutes: Flying Under the Radar

    On April 15th 2018, CBS News 60 MINUTES featured a two-part investigation into the safety record of one of the country’s most profitable airlines, Allegiant Air, a small, ultra-low-cost carrier based in Las Vegas. Over the course of seven months, correspondent Steve Kroft and his producers analyzed hundreds of federal aviation documents and interviewed pilots, mechanics and industry experts for a report that raised disturbing questions about the safety of Allegiant’s fleet. Although Allegiant flies less than 100 planes, our investigation found that over a 20-month period, the airline experienced over 100 serious mechanical problems, including mid-air engine failures, cabin depressurization, smoke in the cabin, flight control malfunctions, hydraulic leaks and aborted take-offs. The incidents forced Allegiant pilots to declare 46 in-flight emergencies and 60 unscheduled landings. Our expert sources said this was a remarkably high number of incidents for an airline this size.
  • Gov. Robert Bentley Scandal

    AL.com revealed first that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a top aide. The relationship was far more than a sex scandal. It raised questions about the spending of public money and the use of state airplanes, law enforcement and other resources to perpetuate or cover up the relationship.
  • Deadly failure on the runway

    Less than a week after multimillionaire businessman Lewis Katz consolidated his ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer in a high-stakes auction, he and six others were killed in a fiery takeoff crash of his Gulfstream G-IV. One month before the National Transportation Safety Board publicly issued its findings, The Inquirer put the readers inside the cockpit for the takeoff roll’s crucial last seconds as the pilots boosted the plane’s speed far above its reputed design limit – and then lost precious moments trying to electronically free the elevator, rather than simply aborting the takeoff. Early reports focused on a lack of required safety checks by the pilots. But that did not account for a central mystery – the plane’s fail-safe system did not prevent the jet from reaching takeoff speed despite their error. The newspaper found that a flaw in the jet’s “gust lock” system - meant to keep the plane’s elevators locked when a jet is parked - allowed the pilots to reach takeoff speed but unable to get lift, a deadly combination.
  • Hazard Above

    According to a year-long investigation by The Washington Post, hundreds of military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001 and civilian drones are posing a new threat to passenger air traffic in the United States. Drones have revolutionized warfare and are set to revolutionize civil aviation under a 2012 federal law that will allow them to fly freely in American skies. But The Post found that the U.S. military and the Federal Aviation Administration suppressed widespread patterns of safety problems with drones and tried to keep details of accidents and near mid-air collisions a secret. Drawing on more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained under FOIA, The Post uncovered more than 400 major military drone crashes worldwide, including 49 in the United States. Some drone models were particularly crash-prone: almost half of the Air Force’s iconic Predator fleet has been destroyed in accidents. The Post published details of 194 of the most serious accidents in an interactive online database, as well as crash-scene photographs, voice-recording transcripts and a video of a stricken Predator drone filming its own fiery breakup over Iraq. The Post also exposed a rash of dangerous encounters between civilian airplanes and drones flown in contravention of FAA rules intended to safeguard U.S. airspace, a problem that has worsened since the series was first published.
  • The pilots of Instagram

    David Yanofsky reports in these feature stories how commercial airline pilots are using cell phones and GoPro cameras to record the unique vantage offered to them in the cockpit, despite such activity violating company and industry safety regulations. Some commercial pilots were even found to be taking pictures during the most critical phases of flight—during takeoff and landing, when most airline accidents occur. There’s a vibrant online community that follows these pilots and their striking photos on Instagram, apparently encouraging them to continue despite the passenger safety risks. Follow-up stories detailed the virulent reactions of some in the pilot community to the initial feature, and provided a graphical representation of FAA regulations to further highlight the issue.
  • Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787

    Jumping off from the battery failures that caused an unprecedented grounding of the 787 fleet in January 2013, "Broken Dreams" explores how Boeing's signature product went so wrong and reveals fresh revelations regarding the safety and quality of the aircraft, including workers afraid to fly the plane they build. "Broken Dreams" ties the well-known story of the battery failures and grounding to a larger, unexplored economic critique. It's the story of a management hungry for Wall Street returns, emboldened by its outsized power in Washington, and enabled by a cozy relationship with a compromised regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • The mysterious story of the battery startup that promised GM a 200-mile car

    Quartz’s feature, “The mysterious story of the battery startup that promised GM a 200-mile car” by Steve LeVine, is a prime example of the continued vitality of classic reporting methods in investigative news. In this long-form piece, LeVine turns two years of week-by-week reporting for a book into an unusual, blow-by-blow, insider account of alleged fraud. Advances in battery technology are critical to the development of products including smartphones, airplanes, and electric cars—and Silicon Valley’s Envia at one moment was home to the most promising research breakthroughs in the US. But a phone tip told LeVine that matters were not as they seemed, leading him to burrow in on the investigation on which the piece is based. LeVine had been regularly interviewing two of the story’s characters for The Great Battery Race, his latest book, to be published in 2015 by Viking. The executives of a Silicon Valley startup were the book’s positive, climactic finish, a Hollywood ending in which General Motors licensed their technology for a triumphal 200-mile electric car, and the founders launched an IPO and got rich. It was only in September 2013, as LeVine was finishing the book, that he received the phone tip--the executives had fallen out in allegations of fraud, and GM had canceled the license. It is a story of how at least one and possibly both of the executives had fooled everyone—the Obama Administration, GM and the media—into believing they had created an enormous technological breakthrough when they had not.
  • Commercial Pilots: Addicted to Automation

    NBC Bay Area’s news team set the bar for coverage with big-picture context and expert analysis without speculation in the hours and days after Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013. Beyond having the major facts and developments of the breaking news first, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit over the following months deepened that coverage with investigations that exposed safety issues within the aviation industry; issues that both the FAA and NTSB later confirmed and acknowledged as critical safety concerns. The Unit: •First widely exposed the danger that pilots tend to become addicted to automation in the cockpit •First uncovered the little-known Flight Level Change Mode trap as a potential safety issue, one that may have played a role in this crash •First to go inside and tour several international flight schools based in the U.S. where pilots such as the Asiana crew trained •First to uncover questionable gaps in training and experience of young, foreign pilots who come to the U.S. to learn to fly commercial large-body airplanes
  • CBS News Investigates: Air Marshalls

    CBS News discovered that the U.S. Air marshals are riddled with internal problems. CBS News obtained information that shows supervisors routinely discriminating and intimidating air marshals according to their race, gender and sexual orientation.