NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


NTSB WARNS ABOUT CATASTROPHIC AIRPORT RUNWAY COLLISIONS, CITES PROGRESS IN AIRCRAFT FUEL TANK SAFETY AND AIRCRAFT ICING ISSUES

November 15, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Three serious near collisions on runways in Boston, New York and Las Vegas this year has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to again press for quicker action by the FAA to reduce these incident. However, the NTSB also noted positive progress by the FAA in pursuing aircraft fuel tank and aircraft wing icing safety; by the FRA, in railroad recorder crashworthiness; and by the U.S. Coast Guard, in marine drug and alcohol testing requirements.

At a public meeting today, the NTSB reviewed its "Most Wanted List" of safety improvements, a list that calls for action on numerous transportation safety issues by federal agencies. The acceptance rate of the Board's Most Wanted List has remained consistently high and is currently about 85%.

"We are encouraged by the progress that we have seen in the acceptance rate of our recommendations," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. "Everyone of our recommendations is important, and when implemented, all of them will improve safety. The Board will continue to push federal agencies, industry and private companies for more safety improvements to enhance our transportation system."

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.

Actions the Board made on the Most Wanted list were:

AVIATION

Runway Incursions -- This area has been on the Board's list since it's inception in 1990. The FAA completed action on a number of objectives to make ground operation of aircraft safer. However, these incidents continue to occur with alarming frequency. The FAA indicates that during fiscal year 2004 there were 326 incursions, and during 2005 there were 324. The FAA's system provides warning to air traffic controllers, but not to the flight crews, a fact that reduces the amount of time that pilots have to react to an impending incursion. Recommendation: Implement a safety system for ground movement that will ensure the safe movement of airplanes on the ground and provides direct warning capability to the flight crews. Status: Action remains on list "Open - Unacceptable Response"

Aircraft Icing - The consequences of operating an airplane in icing conditions without first having thoroughly demonstrated adequate handling/controllability in those conditions are sufficiently severe that they warrant a thorough certification test program. The FAA has not adopted a systematic and proactive approach to the certification and operational issues of transport-category airplane icing. Recommendation: Complete research on aircraft structural icing and continue efforts to revise icing certification criteria, testing requirements, and restrictions on operations in icing conditions. Status: Issue area remains on list "Open - Unacceptable Response"

Fuel/Air Vapors - Center wing fuel tank explosions have resulted in 346 fatalities in four accidents since 1984. Operating transport-category airplanes with flammable fuel/air vapors in fuel tanks presents an avoidable risk of explosion. The Board closed the "short term" recommendation to modify procedures to reduce the potential for flammable fuel/air vapors in aircraft fuel tanks. Because the FAA took no action on this recommendation, it was closed unacceptable action. Recommendation: Complete rulemaking efforts to preclude the operation of transport-category airplanes with flammable fuel/air vapors on the fuel tank on all aircraft. Status: Issue area remains on list "Open - Acceptable Response." (progressing too slowly)"

Audio, Data and Video Recorders - Investigators must have information rapidly, effectively and efficiently in order to determine the factors related to an accident. Automatic information recording devices, such as Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVRs) and Flight Data Recorders (FDRs) have proven to be very useful in gathering pure factual information. This information results in the development of timely, more precise safety recommendations that are likely to reduce future similar accidents. Recommendation: In addition to adopting the 2-hour CVR requirement, require the retrofit of existing CVR's with Recorder Independent Power Supply (RIPS), and require that existing FDR and CVR be on separate generator busses with the highest reliable power so that any single electrical failure does not disable both. Require the installation of video recording systems in small and large aircraft. Require the recording of additional needed FDR data for Boeing 737s. Status: Issue area remains on list "Open - Unacceptable Response"

Restraint Systems for Children --The Federal Aviation Administration allows children up to two years old to travel on an adult's lap rather than be restrained in child safety seats during takeoff, landing and times of turbulence, as the NTSB has recommended. Recommendation: All occupants should be restrained during takeoff, landing and turbulent conditions and that all infants and small children should be restrained in an approved child restraint system appropriate to their height and weight. Status: Issue area to remain on the list "Open - Unacceptable Action"

RAILROAD

Positive Train Control --The Safety Board has a long history of investigating accidents in which crewmembers failed to operate their trains effectively and in accordance with operating rules for a variety of human performance deficiencies. The Board has advocated the implementation of a system known as positive train control (PTC) that compensates for human error and that incorporates collision avoidance to prevent train collisions. Recommendation: Implement a positive train control system. Status: Issue area to remain on list "Open - Acceptable Response" (progressing too slowly)

Improved Survivability of Recorders -- In railroad investigations, the Board relies on data recovered from event recorders to determine critical facts before and during an accident. However, many accidents in which critical event recorder data were lost because the event recorders were compromised due to impact forces, fire exposure, and in some cases water. Recommendation: Require railroads to equip their locomotives with event recorders designed to survive accidents. Status: Because the recommendation was closed after the FRA completed rulemaking on crashworthiness standards, even though the implementation schedule was longer than the Board thought necessary, the issue area was removed from list.

MARINE

Drug and Alcohol Testing of Crews After an Accident -- In accidents involving human error, the Safety Board must first determine if toxicological issues can be excluded as being causal to the accident. Therefore, post accident toxicological testing is extremely important to our accident investigations. The potential effects of alcohol or drug use as a causal factor in major marine accidents frequently cannot be ruled out because testing is not done at all, or is often not done correctly and in a timely manner. Recommendation: The issuance of a final rule by the Coast Guard on alcohol and drug testing requirements for commercial vessels following a serious marine accident. Status: Issue area to remain on list "Open - Acceptable Response" (upgraded from progressing too slowly to progressing in a timely manner)

HIGHWAY

Motor Carrier Operations - The two most important factors in safe motor carrier operations are the operational status of the vehicles and the performance of the individuals who drive them. If problems in these two areas persist, the motor carrier should have its license to operate revoked. The Safety Board has called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to implement such a system. Recommendation: Continue efforts to develop standards that appropriately recognize the importance of vehicle and driver factors in measuring the overall safety of a motor carrier's operations. Status: Issue area to remain on list "Open - Acceptable Response" (progressing too slowly)

Preventing Medically Unqualified Drivers from Operating Commercial Vehicles - Accident investigations involving drivers with serious medical conditions, has exposed the serious flaws that exist in the medical certification process of commercial vehicle drivers. These flaws can lead to increased highway fatalities and injuries for commercial vehicle drivers, their passengers, and the motoring public. Recommendation: Continue efforts to develop medical certification procedures that ensure unfit drivers are not allowed behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. Status: Issue area to remain on list "Open - Acceptable Response" (progressing too slowly)

Protection for Bus Passengers - One of the primary causes of passenger injury in motorcoach accidents occurs when passengers are thrown from their seating areas during an accident. In its 1999 special investigation report on bus crashworthiness, the Safety Board concluded that the overall injury risk to occupants in motorcoach accidents involving rollover and ejection may be reduced significantly by retaining the occupant in the seating compartment throughout the collision. The Board asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require new motorcoach bus occupant protection systems that retain passengers in their seats. In addition, stronger bus roofs and easy-to-open window emergency exits are needed to enhance safety. Recommendation: Continue efforts to improve motorcoach design, and to address construction and occupant protection issues. Status: Issue area to remain on list "Open - Acceptable Response" (progressing too slowly)

INTERMODAL

Update Hours-of-Service Regulations in Aviation, Marine, and Pipeline Industries - Operating a vehicle without the operator having adequate rest, in any mode of transportation, presents an unnecessary risk to the traveling public. The laws, rules, and regulations governing this aspect of transportation safety are archaic in many cases and are not adequate to address the problem. Recommendation: Establish scientifically based hours-of-service regulations that set limits on hours-of-service, provide predictable work and rest schedules, and consider human sleep and rest requirements. Status: Issue area to remain on list "Open -Acceptable Action" (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.