Aviation Officials Say Ruling Could Jeopardize Safety Reporting

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A judge's controversial ruling in a plane
crash liability case has sparked concern across the aviation
industry about the long-term survival of a popular program that
allows air travel workers to privately report safety violations.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester, who is handling several
lawsuits stemming from the August 2006 crash in Kentucky that
killed 49 people, ruled this week that the confidential reports can
be admitted into evidence.

The decision was a blow to Comair, the airline being sued, as
well as Southwest Airlines, a national pilots union and the Federal
Aviation Administration - all of which filed briefs arguing that
the confidential reporting system could be undermined if its
information is allowed at trial.

Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association,
which represents Comair and 42 other airlines, said he would ask
Congress to get involved to protect the Aviation Safety Action
Program. It was created to allows pilots, flight attendants, air
traffic controllers, mechanics and others to report problems
without being identified, then pass that information on to FAA to
identify trends.

Prater said he knew of no other time an ASAP report has been
used in a liability case.

"This has the potential of destroying the program nationwide,"
Prater said of the ruling. "That would be a travesty because these
programs have made America's skies safer."

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