It seems like the dismal news about air travel never ends. Usually it’s delays, the increasing delays and prospect of more of them in the future. Sometime in the last two years I read an in-depth article about the outsourcing of airplane maintenance to non-FAA-approved foreign contractors leading to lowered standards of air safety.

Now the unhappy news is leaking out slowly to MSNBC from a strange source: NASA. The US space agency performed a massive survey of pilots regarding the true state of air safety. The results? Supposedly so not-pretty that the agency is refusing to disclose them. And why? You can probably guess. “A senior NASA official, associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke, said revealing the findings could damage the public’s confidence in airlines and affect airline profits” due to lowered customer confidence. NASA has actually gone to the lengths of ordering the outsourcer that performed the survey to purge the data from its records.

Some snippets of scary results:

“Among other results, the pilots reported at least twice as many bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway incursions as other government monitoring systems show, according to a person familiar with the results who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

The survey also revealed higher-than-expected numbers of pilots who experienced ‘in-close approach changes’ — potentially dangerous, last-minute instructions to alter landing plans.”

NASA has refused Freedom of Information Act requests for the survey results from the Associated Press, but now that the story has made it into the mainstream media, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

A case of what you don’t know could actually kill you? Or just another scaremongering news story that we shouldn’t waste time worrying about?