Board member leaves NTSB

 - March 30, 2009, 12:29 PM

Steven Chealander, the public face of the NTSB during press conferences following the February 12 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, has left the safety agency and joined Airbus Americas.

The 62-year-old Chealander’s term as a Safety Board member had expired Dec. 31, 2007, and he was awaiting Senate confirmation to a full five-year term at the time the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprop plunged into a house, killing all 49 on board and one person in the home.

The NTSB said that his departure will have no effect on the crash probe, which could take at least a year. As the Board member on the scene, he was serving strictly as the Safety Board’s spokesman and had no investigative duties.

Chealander became vice president of technical training at the Airbus Training Center in Miami on March 9. Before joining the NTSB, he had spent 15 years at American Airlines in positions of increasing responsibility, including pilot, chief pilot, flight safety manager and manager of flight operations efficiency.

Before joining American, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1991, including tours of duty in Vietnam and Spain. An F-4 pilot and instructor pilot, and then a USAF aggressor pilot, Chealander was selected in 1981 to be a member of the Thunderbirds. He flew with the team until 1985, when he was assigned as a staff officer at Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley AFB in Virginia.

In 1986 he was selected as military aide to President Ronald Reagan. In this capacity, he performed a variety of ceremonial and emergency preparedness duties, including carrying the so-called “football” that contains the codes needed for the President to launch nuclear weapons.

Subsequently, Chealander commanded an F-5 tactical fighter squadron at Williams AFB in Arizona and an F-16 tactical fighter wing at Luke AFB in Arizona. He retired from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Chealander joined the NTSB in January 2007 and was the board member on the scene for a midair between two news helicopters in Phoenix in 2007 and the crash of a corporate Hawker 800 in Owatonna, Minn., in 2008, as well as the crash in Buffalo.
The Airbus training center (ATC) is a custom-designed, $50 million, 100,000-sq-ft facility that houses cabin door and slide trainers and five full-motion flight simulators. Nearly 100 employees at ATC Miami train some 3,000 air crewmembers each year, mostly from North and Latin America. ATC Miami is one of four Airbus Training Centers worldwide.

Chealander received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California and completed graduate studies in business management at the University of Utah.