NASA Aviation Safety Program
Initiative Will Reduce Aviation Fatalities
The $500 million NASA Aviation Safety Program (AvSP) is a partnership with the Federal Aviation
Administration, the Department of Defense and the aviation industry.
AvSP is working to develop
advanced, affordable technologies to help make travel safer on
commercial airliners and smaller aircraft.
To meet the national goal of
reducing the fatal aircraft accident rate by 80 percent in 10 years
and 90 percent in 25 years, the NASA Aviation Safety Program is
focusing on three areas recommended by a national team of more than
100 government and industry organizations:
- Accident Prevention
- Accident Mitigation
- Aviation System Monitoring and Modeling
Accident Prevention is
attacking the issue of airplane accidents from human, mechanical
and engineering perspectives.
Researchers and industry teams in
one element, Weather Accident Prevention, are working to bring a
sort of weather channel to the cockpit; better weather datalink
systems to pilots, air traffic controllers and airline dispatchers;
and better ways to detect, warn of and minimize turbulence. Weather
is a contributing factor in about 30 percent of all aviation
accidents. Turbulence is the greatest cause of airline injuries and
costs airlines at least $100 million a year.
would address the single largest contributing factor in fatal
worldwide airline andgeneral aviation crashes: limited visibility.
NASA engineers and their industry partners are developing an
advanced cockpit display that will use technologies such as Global
Positioning System signals and terrain databases to give pilots a
clear out-the-window picture, no matter what the weather or time of
With the help of company teams,
Single Aircraft Accident Prevention is developing on board
technologies to help planes monitor their own systems, including
engines and airframes. The idea is to detect and diagnose
abnormalities, then fix them before they become big problems.
System-wide Accident Prevention is
looking at changes that could affect the entire aviation system.
NASA researchers are focusing on the human side of accidents. They
are developing models to better predict human error and working to
improve training and other procedures for maintenance and flight
researchers are working to make accidents more survivable. AvSP
drop tests of full scale airplanes help engineers determine how to
make aircraft seats, restraining systems and structures better able
to withstand crashes. Researchers are also developing new
technologies to prevent in-flight fires and minimize fire hazards
after an accident.
Finally Aviation System
Monitoring and Modeling is looking at the aviation system as a
whole with modern data-gathering techniques. AvSP is helping
airlines monitor their own equipment and performance to better
predict where accidents might happen. This kind of extensive
monitoring will help the aviation system assess known and
heretofore unknown issues.
The Aviation Safety Program is
NASA's primary, but not only, investment in aviation safety
technologies. It is a "focused" program. That means it concentrates
on longer term, high risk research and development but with a
greater emphasis on application and shorter term results than
so-called "base" NASA programs. "Base" research and technology
projects are doing work in icing, aging aircraft, rotorcraft pilot
aiding, human fatigue and aerodynamic design principles.
The aviation safety initiative was
created in the summer of 1997 in response to a report from the
White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. NASA has
designated about $500 million over five years for aviation safety
research and development, with more funding expected to follow.
Researchers at four NASA field
installations are working with the FAA and industry to make flying
safer: Langley; Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.;
Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.; and Glenn
Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
The NASA Aviation Safety
Program is working on eight technology strategies:
- Make every flight the equivalent of clear-day
- Bring intelligent weather decision-making tools, including
worldwide real-time moving map displays, to every cockpit
- Eliminate severe turbulence as an aviation hazard
- Continuously track, diagnose and restore the health of
on-board systems, leading to self-healing and "refuse to crash"
- Improve human/machine integration in design, operations and
- Monitor and assess all data from every flight for both known
and unknown issues
- Increase survivability when accidents do occur
- Anticipate and prepare for future issues as the aviation
For more information on the NASA
Aviation Safety Program, please check the Internet at: http://avsp.larc.nasa.gov.