NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


NTSB CALLS FOR FEDERAL ACTION TO ADOPT "MOST WANTED" SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS

November 9, 2004

Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board said today that the government should be doing more to prevent accidents and enhance safety for the traveling public. The Board updated its list of Most Wanted Safety Improvements, noting instances where federal agencies had given unacceptable responses to NTSB recommendations or were moving too slowly to implement recommended safety measures.

Two items were removed from the list, one because action on it is almost completed, and the other because the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) refused to adopt the recommended safety enhancement.

Established in 1990, the Most Wanted list is a way for the NTSB to focus attention on needed safety improvements in all modes of transportation. The list highlights recommendations that the Board believes would significantly reduce deaths and injuries.

"Our recommendations are derived from the hard lessons we have learned over the years investigating many tragic accidents," said NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners. "Quite simply, implementing these measures will save lives."

Aviation

In aviation, the Board reviewed the status of recommendations in six issue areas --

Runway incursions - The Board's recommendation calls for a system that ensures safe movement of airplanes on the ground and provides warnings of probable collisions/incursions directly to flight crews in the cockpit. To illustrate the potential dangers of a runway incursion, the Board viewed a simulation, prepared by NTSB staff, of a near-collision at Los Angeles last August involving two large airliners, a B- 747 and a B-737. This incident was not reported by air traffic control officials as an operational error. "The fact that such incidents are not being reported casts doubt on the FAA's claims that the runway incursion rate is declining," Chairman Engleman Conners said. "The FAA needs to review its reporting process." Status: The Board changed the classification of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) response to this recommendation from "Open-Acceptable Response" to "Open-Unacceptable Response."

Fuel/Air Vapors in Fuel Tanks - Recommendations call for interim measures to reduce flammable fuel/air vapors in fuel tanks and, longer term, airplane design changes to eliminate the generation of such vapors. Status: Due to the lack of FAA initiatives on interim measures, the Board decided to reclassify the short-term recommendation from "Open- Acceptable Response" to "Open-Unacceptable Response." On the longer-term recommendation, the Board found the FAA's response acceptable. The Board is anticipating that the FAA will begin the regulatory process to require a flammability reduction system in the near future. Overall, the Board noted that implementation was progressing too slowly.

Aircraft Icing - To reduce the dangers of flying in icing conditions, NTSB recommendations call for expedited research and upgraded airplane design and certification standards. Status: Noting that the oldest icing recommendations on the list date back eight years, the Board changed the classification of this issue from "Open-Acceptable Response," but progressing slowly, to "Open-Unacceptable Response" based on the FAA's lack of progress in this area.

Audio, Data and Video Recorders - Recommendations specify at least two hours of audio recording capability, back-up power sources, and a requirement for video recorders in the cockpit to give investigators more information to solve complex accidents. Status: The Board noted some progress by the FAA on a few recommendations in this issue area but retained the overall classification of "Open-Unacceptable Response."

Child Restraints - Recommendation asks for a requirement that infants and toddlers under age two be safely restrained on takeoff, landing and in turbulence. Status: Unacceptable response from FAA.

Highway

Motor Carrier Operations - Recommendation calls for changes in fitness rating procedures to prevent motor carriers from operating if they put vehicles with mechanical problems on the road or unqualified drivers behind the wheel. Status: While noting recent progress, given the lack of rulemaking activity by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA), the Board voted to change its classification of the response from acceptable, making timely progress, to acceptable but implementation progressing too slowly.

Medically-unqualified Drivers - Recommendations seek to eliminate flaws that exist in the process of medically certifying commercial vehicle drivers. Status: Acceptable response from FCMSA; implementation progressing too slowly.

Bus Passenger Protection - Recommendations call for redesigned window emergency exits, stronger roofs on buses, and new standards to protect passengers from being thrown out of their seats or ejected when a bus is in a collision and/or rolls over. Status: Acceptable response from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); implementation progressing too slowly. The recommendation to FMCSA was classified "Closed-Reconsidered," as the Board determined that NHTSA has the primary responsibility for action in this area.

Marine

Drug/Alcohol Testing - Recommendations ask that regulations be strengthened and clarified to require that drug and alcohol testing be conducted quickly after a major marine accident. Status: Acceptable response from U.S. Coast Guard; implementation progressing slowly.

Voyage Data Recorders - Recommendation asks for a requirement that all large ocean-going vessels be equipped with voyage data recorders to help investigators determine causes of accidents. Status: Recommendation to U.S. Coast Guard classified "Open-Acceptable Response" pending final action by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Board removed this item from the Most Wanted list as recorders are expected to be mandated by the IMO in December.

Railroad

Positive Train Control Systems - Recommendation seeks to prevent train collisions and speed-related accidents by requiring automatic control systems to override mistakes by human operators. Status: Acceptable response from FRA; implementation progressing too slowly.

Recorder Survivability - Recommendation calls for improved recorder survivability to protect data from fire and impact forces in train accidents. Status: Unacceptable response from the FRA.

The Board also removed Cab Voice Recorders as a railroad issue area as the underlying recommendation was previously classified as "Closed-Unacceptable Action."

Intermodal

Hours-of-Service Regulations - For the aviation, marine and pipeline industries, recommendations call for regulations that set limits on hours of service, provide predictable work and rest schedules, and consider human sleep and rest requirements. Status: Varied responses from federal agencies; overall, issue area classified as acceptable response; implementation progressing too slowly.

Further details, including the texts of the safety recommendations in each issue area, summaries of federal agency actions, and the status of each recommendation can be found on the Board's website at www.ntsb.gov.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (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.