Deborah Hersman was sworn in as the 12th chairman of the NTSB at the end of July, taking over from acting chairman Mark Rosenker, who held the position of chairman or acting chairman since 2005. Hersman was nominated for the two-year term as chairman by President Obama on June 18 and confirmed by the Senate on July 24. She was also nominated and confirmed for a second five-year term as Board member, which runs through the end of 2013.
During her first five-year term on the board, Hersman presided over 16 major investigations, including several high-profile aviation accident investigations such as the February 2005 crash of the Platinum Jet Challenger 600 at Teterboro, N.J.; the August 2006 crash of a Comair CRJ100 in Lexington, Ky.; the October 2006 crash of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle’s Cirrus SR20 into a Manhattan apartment building; the September 2008 crash of the Global Exec Aviation Learjet 60 in Columbia, S.C.; and the September 2008 crash of a Maryland State Police Eurocopter AS 365N3 EMS helicopter in Forestville, Md.
“We’re fortunate that the NTSB has the ability to investigate accidents in an aviation environment that’s the best in the world, but there is still room for improvement,” Hersman told AIN. “We play a role in raising the bar for aviation safety across the board, whether it is scheduled service, business aviation or general aviation and that’s really what our purpose is.”
One of the key safety issues that Hersman hopes to address in her tenure as chairman is that of fatigue, which is being examined as one of the factors in the February 12 crash of a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 in Buffalo. “One thing that the safety board shined a bright spotlight on in our Colgan investigation was fatigue and I think that is something we can address right away.” Exactly what NTSB recommendations will arise from this investigation and how they will be followed remain to be seen. “It’s really up to the recipients to implement our recommendations, but I see our role as being the truth tellers. We hold up a mirror and we show people what we see,” she noted.