NTSB Chair's Remarks Raise Eyebrows In International Community

 - June 18, 2012, 4:00 PM
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Deborah Hersman.

When National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Deborah Hersman says her agency represents, “The conscience and compass of the aviation world,” some people don’t not know how to react. Some interpret that kind of talk as a tad cocky, but that attitude changes pretty quickly.

“We have such a good reputation internationally and with the public,” she told AIN. The NTSB was organized “in the best interests of the traveling public.” Hersman has been running the board for the past three years.

Bertrand de Courville, a European-based A330/340 captain, interprets Hersman’s words just a bit differently. “Conscience of the aviation world is a good image to reflect the respect a safety board must inspire,” he said. “But conscience implies people are having accidents because they are guilty and do not want to do good things for safety. Guilt should never be an issue when we address safety. The NTSB’s work is really founded on more rational, technical approaches.”

“I think a lot of this [philosophy] originated when I was nominated to be chairman,” Hersman said. “Working through the nomination hearings, I needed to develop a way to succinctly explain to Congress and the public how I saw our unique role in transportation safety. I see our employees as the conscience and the compass of the transportation industry, because we always put the public’s interests first. We’re independent, we’re fair and we’re unencumbered by the political and budgetary constraints that face many other organizations. People look to us for the truth.”