Insiders Question NTSB Transparency

Some people applauded immediate transparency of NTSB but now others question the free-flow of information

During the first week following the crash of Asiana Flight 214 National Transportation Safety Board regularly released information about its investigation and facts that may have contributed to the crash.

Many applauded the NTSB's transparency. Now a former lead investigator with the NTSB is raising questions about those decision.

“I don’t know why there was as much of the information that was released early on in the investigation,” said GregFife, a former NTSB investigator and current aviation expert. “I know from an accident investigator standpoint and industry standpoint, there were a lot of people questioning it.”

Fife had 21 years of experience with the NTSB. He was a member of the "Go Team" and served as investigator in charge.

While he acknowledges the NTSB’s push for transparency, Fife and other industry sources were surprised by the amount and detail of investigative information in the days following the crash.

NTSB chair Deborah Hersman held her first press conference two days after the Asiana crash that left three people dead and dozens injured. Hersman revealed details about the pilot’s experience level in a Boeing 777, the speed and altitude of the plane before it crashed and the pilot’s call for a go-around just prior to impact.

“I was very surprised that they were releasing as much information,” Fife said, “especially off the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. Those are the two key elements in any large aircraft accident and you really have to substantiate the information. But you also have to put it in context.”

Fife says it is a delicate balance between the public’s right to know and the responsibility to make sure critical details are accurate.

“We were very guarded in the information we provided to the public early in the investigation,” Fife said. “Not because it was secret, not because we didn’t want people to know, but because we needed to vet the information. We had to be sure it was fact before we released it as fact.”

NTSB's public affairs officer Keith Holloway said "that's what we do, we release information as we get it."

He said in recent years the news cycle has changed and social media has also changed.

"Years ago it didn't exist," Holloway said.

In reference to the release of information following the crash of Flight 214, "it was not unusual."

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