Following revelations of the situational awareness obstacles faced by the Comair pilots at Lexington last year, the US Federal Aviation Administration tasked a small team of analysts internally with pouring over 5.4 million incident and occurrence reports from a variety of databases.
According to Nicholas Sabatini, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, what they found were 117 "isolated, separate instances where crews reported confusion at airports with certain physical characteristics."
The finding further fuelled Sabatini's drive to bring more data mining capabilities into the FAA, a desire that culminated this week in the creation of an Office of Analytical Services within the agency.
The new office will use NASA-developed software tools to scour aviation safety databases for indicators of looming problems, shifting from what has traditionally been a forensic safety stance to a one that is proactive.
"Issues like that were in the noise before," Sabatini told Flight International, flightglobal.com's sister publication. "Will we notice something occurring that infrequently? That's the challenge."