NTSB ‘Outsider’ Carmody Looks Back

 - October 16, 2006, 1:09 PM

The NTSB should be able to choose which general aviation accidents it investigates, former Board member Carol Carmody said in a speech before the Washington Aero Club.

Carmody, who has held posts in the aviation community for 20 years, explained that the NTSB is required under the statute that created it to investigate every aviation accident. That directive does not exist for other modes of transportation, and the agency is able to select those accidents that will teach it something or that will add to the body of knowledge.

For example, there are about 3,500 railroad-crossing accidents every year. “When I first came to the Board, I remarked on this and one of the pros said, ‘It’s the same accident happening more than 3,000 times a year,’” Carmody recalled. “Not much is learned from investigating such an accident. The same might be true of the many general aviation accidents that the NTSB is required to investigate.”

The Board does not conduct a full-scale investigation into each of these accidents; in many cases it delegates its authority to the FAA to investigate the minor ones. Nevertheless, mandatory investigation of all accidents is a major resource commitment that produces limited results, she said, and in times of difficult budget choices, the requirement could be revisited.

“I would suggest that the next reauthorization bill might specify that the NTSB be allowed to select the aviation accidents it will investigate, just as it does in other modes,” Carmody said.