NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


NTSB UPDATES 'MOST WANTED' LIST OF TRANSPORTATION SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS

May 20, 1997

Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has updated its "Most Wanted" list of safety improvements by adding recommendations to increase aviation, pipeline, ship, truck and rapid rail transit safety.

The list, instituted seven years ago, focuses attention on NTSB recommendations that have the most potential to save lives. At a public meeting in Washington, NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said the high priority list "turns the spotlight on issues with the greatest impact on safety. Recommendations elevated to the list receive more intensive follow up activity to persuade government agencies and industry to act on them quickly."

To improve aviation, the Board added aircraft fuel tank measures and cargo hold safety and a wide range of requirements to make flying safer in icy weather conditions.

To upgrade the safety of the nation's network of pipelines, the NTSB wants better ways to avoid excavation damage to underground pipelines.

The Safety Board also added requirements to install automatic recording devices and event recorders on commercial trucks, ships and rapid rail transit cars.

Positive action by the Federal Railroad Administration prompted the NTSB to delete one item from its list, bringing the number of issues to 21. Railroad hazardous materials tank car recommendations were taken off because regulations are being modified to achieve an acceptable level of safety.

Major additions to the "Most Wanted" list include these recommendations:

Require fire-smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in all class D cargo compartments of passenger aircraft. The NTSB first urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require these improvements following a 1988 passenger plane fire. Last year's ValuJet crash into the Everglades reinforced the need for these changes.

 

Require automatic recording devices on commercial trucks, ships and rapid rail transit cars. The NTSB wants the Federal Highway Administration to require automated and tamper-proof on-board recording devices, such as tachographs or computerized logs, to identify truck drivers who exceed hours of service regulations.

 

The Safety Board is urging the U.S. Coast Guard to petition the International Maritime Organization to require that all vessels over 500 gross tons be equipped with voyage event recorders - the shipping equivalent of aircraft "black boxes."

The NTSB wants the Federal Transit Administration to develop guidelines for monitoring-recording devices that capture critical performance and event data for rapid rail transit cars. The Safety Board also wants transit agencies to install these devices on new and rehabilitated cars.

Develop written procedures and training to prevent excavation-caused pipeline damage. As a result of several fatal explosions, the NTSB is pushing a series of recommendations that would require excavation damage prevention programs; comprehensive education and training for buried-facility operators and the public; and effective government monitoring and enforcement. Several recommendations stem from a 1993 natural gas explosion in St. Paul, Minnesota, that killed three people and last year's building explosion in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that killed 33 people.

 

Reduce the potential for explosive fuel-air mixtures in fuel tanks of transport category aircraft. The NTSB has urged the FAA to make operational changes. They include refueling the center wing tank from cooler ground fuel tanks before flight, monitoring temperatures and maintaining a proper minimum amount of fuel in the tanks.

 

Recommend revisions of FAA's requirements for testing and certifying aircraft ice protection systems, especially for those on turboprop aircraft. The NTSB is also urging the FAA to research and develop a new generation of anti-icing and deicing systems.

 

Several categories on the list were updated and expanded. The NTSB is urging the states and District of Columbia to immediately pull the licenses of drivers who fail or refuse to take chemical or alcohol tests. The Safety Board added several vehicle air bag recommendations to its Highway Vehicle Occupant Protection category. They include urging the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to test, evaluate and require the redesign of air bags. And urging federal and state governments to mount a campaign on the importance of transporting small children in the back seats of cars.

The Board also reiterated its call for the urgent retrofit of all older Boeing 737 aircraft with updated flight data recorders. Added to the "Most Wanted" list last year, the Board said the FAA is not moving quickly to retrofit 737s. The latest retrofit timetable is not expected to be complete until the year 2000 -- five years later than the NTSB's recommended deadline. The lack of adequate flight data recorders in two 737 accidents has hampered the NTSB's investigations into their causes. The most recent was the crash of USAir flight 427 near Pittsburgh in 1994. The aircraft's "black box" did not include vital information on rudder movements and rudder input by the flight crew.

Media contact: Pat Cariseo (202) 314-6100

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.