Safety board at full strength

 - October 8, 2007, 6:31 AM

With the addition of one new face and the reconfirmation of another, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) now has its full complement of five members.

In late September Marion Blakey was sworn in as the ninth chairman of the NTSB after being confirmed by the Senate. That same month the Senate reconfirmed John Hammerschmidt as an NTSB member.

Blakey has served in a number of positions in government, most recently as
administrator of the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 1992 and 1993. As the nation’s leading highway safety official, she was charged with reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes.

For the past eight years she has been the principal of Blakey & Associates, a Washington public-affairs consulting firm particularly focusing on transportation issues and traffic safety. Before that, she served in five government departments and agencies, including the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the White House, as well as the DOT. She has held four previous Presidential appointments, two of which required Senate confirmation.

Blakey received her bachelor’s degree with honors in international studies from Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia. She also attended Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies for graduate work in Middle East Affairs.

Hammerschmidt On Board Since 1991
Her current term as chairman ends Sept. 23, 2003. Her term as a member of the NTSB ends Dec. 31, 2005.

For Hammerschmidt, who has been a Safety Board member since 1991, this is the third Senate confirmation. His latest confirmation is for the unexpired term previously held by former chairman Jim Hall and will end on December 31 next year. Hall left the board in January.

Hammerschmidt’s tenure on the board is the second longest in NTSB history. He has participated on-scene in more than five dozen major accident investigations and public hearings, including the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 accident near Point Magu, Calif., last year and the 1997 Comair Embraer EMB-120 commuter airline accident near Monroe, Mich.

A private pilot, he has also chaired several of the NTSB’s public hearings, including Alaska Flight 261; the American Eagle ATR 72 accident near Roselawn, Ind., in 1995; and the American International Airways DC-8 accident at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1994.

Before becoming a board member, Hammerschmidt served as special assistant to the board chairman and member from 1985 to 1991. He graduated from Dartmouth College and later attended Vanderbilt Law School and Harvard Business School. He also studied at the Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito as part of Georgetown University’s foreign study program.

The NTSB has five board members, each nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to serve five-year terms.