Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, NTSB - 40 years today

NTSBThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) opened its doors 40 years ago today: April 1, 1967. Since then, the NTSB has investigated about 130,000 aviation accidents and thousands of accidents in the other modes of transportation: highway, rail, marine and pipeline. Its major product is the safety recommendation, each of which represents a potential safety improvement. In its 40 years, the NTSB has issued some 12,600 safety recommendations, with an average acceptance rate of 82 percent.

Although the NTSB deals with every mode of transportation in the U.S., much of its work is devoted to aviation. The agency is charged with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States.
Aviation safety has improved, in part, because investigations now feature digital flight recorders with many hundreds of parameters, where foil recorders 40 years ago provided only 5 parameters and had to be read out by hand. Equipment or operational problems can now be more readily and confidently identified.

Turbine engines are so reliable that twin-engine aircraft are now allowed to fly for thousands of miles over open water.

Computers have led to the development of extremely realistic flight simulators, allowing pilots to be trained to handle virtually any conceivable flight condition.

Systems developed and installed on airliners - resulting at least in part from NTSB recommendations - have virtually eliminated mid-air collisions and controlled flight into terrain crashes in this country for aircraft so equipped.

If the air carrier accident rate were the same today as it was in 1965, the United States would average a fatal airliner accident every 10 days. Except for the terrorist attacks of 2001 - which were deliberate criminal acts - no year since 1990 has seen more than 4 fatal scheduled air carrier accidents in the United States. The annual number of general aviation crashes has dropped by two thirds in the last 40 years. [NTSB News].
On the occasion of the agency's 40th anniversary, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said, "I am confident that in the years to come the National Transportation Safety Board will continue to be at the forefront of identifying safety problems in the transportation system and recommending changes to eliminate them. I think our nation has been well-served by the career professionals who comprise the dedicated workforce of the NTSB. I congratulate them and all who have come before them over the last 40 years."

Happy Birthday, NTSB. Onward and upward!