Former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) boss Marion Blakey became the ninth chairperson of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), taking over from Jim Hall in late September. Hall resigned last January after seven years with the independent safety agency, six of them as chairman.
National Transportation Safety Board
President Bush nominated former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator Marion Blakey to the NTSB. If she is confirmed by the Senate, Bush plans to nominate her as chair of the Board.
Although the number of general aviation accidents last year was the lowest total since record keeping began in 1938, the NTSB noted that the accident rate increased slightly from 6.33 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in 2000 to 6.56 accidents last year.
In the first quarter of this year, the U.S.-registered Part 91 and 135 business jet and turboprop fleet experienced 22 total accidents, five of which killed a total of 15 people, according to safety analyst Robert E. Breiling Associates of Boca Raton, Fla.
The NTSB has confirmed talk that the Board is “about to release” a report modifying some of its findings in the October 1994 crash of an American Eagle ATR 72 near Roselawn, Ind.
The NTSB has expanded its online database to include synopses of accidents occurring from 1962 to the present. Previously, data for accidents before 1983 were not available online. The site now contains the synopsis of more than 90,000 accidents, including the five years of investigations conducted by the Safety Board’s predecessor agency, the Civil Aeronautics Board, before 1967.
The ongoing investigation into the fatal midair collision between an Air Force F-16 and a privately operated Cessna 172 near Bradenton, Fla., on Nov. 16, 2000, reveals “safety issues that warrant the FAA’s attention,” said the NTSB.
“Pilots in handcuffs is what we’re talking about,” said lawyer Kenneth Quinn at the Flight Safety Foundation European Aviation Safety Seminar held recently in Bucharest, Romania. Quinn moderated a two-hour discussion of criminalization and aviation safety, an apropos discussion as the industry becomes ever more vulnerable to attack in an increasingly litigious society.
General aviation fatalities dropped 30 percent last year, to 491 from 703 in 2006, according to the NTSB. But the total number of general aviation accidents was higher, climbing to 1,631 in 2007 from 1,518 in 2006. The total number of accidents includes 20 U.S.-registered aircraft mishaps that occurred outside the U.S., its territories or possessions.
Investigations of aircraft accidents–referred to in the past as “kicking tin”–are taking a decidedly high-tech turn, and NTSB chairman Marion Blakey predicted that crash probes are going to be driven increasingly by issues involving high-tech safety systems, integrated computer programs, high-grade materials and electronically generated data and data analysis.