Honorable Marion C. Blakey
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
Flight Safety Foundation
June 18, 2002

 





Thank you, Carl (Vogt).

It is truly a pleasure for me to address an organization with which we at the Safety Board share the same goals. Indeed, the continuous improvement of flight safety is a goal that we both strive for each and everyday. In the words of Stuart Mathews. . . we both "preach the safety gospel." And believe me-when Stuart talks about safety, he could make a tent revival proud.

But, beyond our larger goals - - the Flight Safety Foundation and the NTSB share many other similarities. We both take great pride in the independence and objectivity of our organizations. We both conduct research that addresses pressing safety issues. We both strive to improve flight safety education and training. We both look for creative ways to disseminate our safety message.

Now, this takes some unusual turns.Just yesterday, I was in Florida speaking at a conference on boating safety. As you would guess, one of the safety fundamentals in that area is the use of life jackets or PFD's-personal flotation devices as the industry calls them. As a demonstration, we made full size boats out of cardboard and duct tape-then raced them in the water until the inevitable happened and the merits of PFD's became apparent!

As far as advocacy and demonstrations go.I've also had my share of some pretty exciting moments with aviation safety demonstrations-slide deployments.the new firefighting trucks with the nozzle that can send a jet of water the length of a football field.and another experience I'll tell you about a little later in my remarks. Who says safety advocacy can't be fun?

The Flight Safety Foundation and the NTSB also share another thing-responsibilities on a global scale. As you know, this global focus is nothing new - - it has existed for some time. In fact, for the past 55 years, the Flight Safety Foundation has worked with aviation safety agencies and organizations throughout the world. The same is true for the NTSB.  We respond to accidents across the globe, and in doing so we offer our experience, knowledge and services to numerous countries.

As you can imagine, for a small agency such as ours with a little over 400 people - - international accident investigations can take their toll on our resources.A challenge that shows no signs of diminishing.

As flying becomes increasingly accessible to the larger international community - - especially developing countries in which economic constraints often hinder flight safety - - our challenge is to ensure the number of international accidents do not rise with increased volume.

To meet this challenge, we look to organizations such as yours to work with us to prevent accidents before they happen. Through our collective efforts - - our research, our education, and our advocacy - - we can confront many of these safety issues proactively.

And, several recent international accident investigations we are assisting in will no doubt raise important safety issues and concerns. Let me briefly update you on a couple of these.

In the past 8 months, the NTSB participated in 16 international transport airplane accident investigations conducted by foreign states - -including China, England, Tunisia, Korea, Nigeria, Indonesia and San Salvador, just to name a few.

Most recently, we dispatched an accredited representative team to Taipei to assist the Taiwanese and Dr. Kay Yong's team in their investigation of the May 25th China Air accident in the Taiwan Straits, which resulted in 234 fatalities.

As some of you may have already heard, yesterday-actually Tuesday in Taiwan--the cockpit voice recorder was recovered. As far as the flight data recorder goes, its ping has been picked up and marked and we expect its recovery soon. Also, the accident debris field continues to be mapped. The changing tides and nearly 200 ft depths in the Taiwan straits, however, have made it difficult to recover the wreckage. And, we're talking a very small window of recovery between tides. In addition, it takes a diver almost four hours to travel to and from the wreckage. Once on the ocean floor, divers are only able to work for 15 minutes at a time.
The good news, however, is that additional help has arrived. We expect progress in recovering the undersea wreckage to pick up significantly now that a salvage ship with remote operating vehicles is on scene. It should take about two more weeks to bring up all of the wreckage.

Although Taiwan has only begun their investigation, the fact that the aircraft was a Boeing 747-200 - - one of the classics airplanes over 500 in service in the United States and around the world - - makes this investigation particularly important.

On other fronts.NTSB accredited representative teams were also recently dispatched to Tunis, Tunisia and Busan, Korea. In Tunis, a suspected CFIT involving an Egypt Air B737-500 occurred during approach and resulted in 14 fatalities and 48 survivors. A month earlier in Busan, another suspected CFIT involving an Air China B767-200 resulted in 138 fatalities and only 28 survivors. In each accident, less than 100 ft. was the difference between a safe approach and disaster as both aircraft clipped the crest of the terrain.

In addition, there have been two more suspected CFIT accidents this year in Colombia - - both involving operators and airplanes registered in Ecuador.
I know these accidents are of particular interest to you all. Certainly, this is an appropriate time to commend you for all your hard work on Approach-and-Landing and CFIT accidents. And, we at the Safety Board certainly share your concerns.

"The law of averages" would suggest that as airline flights increase across the globe, the number of international Approach-and-Landing and CFIT accidents would inevitably rise. I know both of our organizations agree this does not need to be the case. For this reason, the Safety Board has advocated the implementation of a system that can virtually eliminate CFIT accidents - - the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS).

If all are confirmed to be CFIT, the 4 accidents I just described - - as you know- - could have been avoided if the flight crews had this system available to them.
I recently had a first-hand demonstration of EGPWS in a King Air in the Seattle area that involved some pretty dramatic flying with a crack test pilot. The flight reminded me of that fine print at the bottom of many car ads that says-professional driver on closed circuit, do not attempt. But, let me tell you - - it reinforced my belief that we need to put our combined energy behind getting this technology implemented on a global scale.

However, at the Safety Board recognize that technology alone will not solve CFIT or Approach-and-Landing accidents. Training, increased awareness among pilots and air traffic control, and strict compliance with strong procedures are equally important and must augment new technology - - these are all areas that you all have already done great work.

Another recent incident we are investigating raised particularly important human factors issues. Some of you may know of the China Air A340 flight that left Anchorage bound for Taipei on January 25th of this year.

The plane, with its 254 passengers and crew narrowly avoided catastrophe when pilots took off on a taxiway - - instead of a runway. The plane came so close to running out of taxiway that its landing gear clipped a snow berm at the pavement's end before it gained altitude. The photographs from our investigator of the plane's tire tracks in the snow are chilling - - we came incredibly close to a major disaster.

This incident raises important human factors and air traffic control communication issues- - ones that are addressed in your Approach-and-Landing Accident Reduction (or ALAR) Tool Kit. It's just one good example among many of how you're promoting lessons learned throughout the aviation community.

Speaking of promoting lessons learned - - many of our international investigations give us the opportunity to share our experiences and knowledge with nations that often do not have the same economic resources to devote to flight safety that we have in the United States.

A recent example, demonstrates this point. In May, the Safety Board provided a special staff envoy at the request of the Minister of Transport of Nigeria following a BAC 1-11 accident in Kano.  Even though the accident aircraft was not of US manufacture, the NTSB sent an experienced investigator on a 10-day mission to assist officials in Abuja to help organize the overall investigative effort. From what I am told, our investigator was able to share valuable information, experiences, and training tips with the Nigerian investigators.

For some developing countries, their first major accident investigation is also their first investigation. And while no other experience can truly capture the intensity of a crash site, basic accident investigation techniques and instruction do help prepare for the inevitable. In this regard, the Safety Board sees some exciting potential in our newly created NTSB Academy to share our experience throughout the world.

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2003, this state of the art facility will not only provide the training necessary to keep our accident investigators on the cutting edge of investigative technology and performance - - but it will also advance transportation safety worldwide. With our increasingly global transportation systems, we have an obligation to insure that high standards and effective techniques are employed no matter where transportation disasters occur around the world.

The Academy provides an excellent platform for sharing our knowledge, providing training for accident investigators, first responders, law enforcement, firefighters and others worldwide who we need to work with us at an accident site, and for advocating safety improvements on a global scale.

We've pledged to the international community the resources of the Academy and extend an invitation to everyone here to join us in making this Academy a success. We're looking forward to having there some of your best and brightest teachers and instructors-to benefit from your "lessons learned" as well. Indeed, it will take our collective experience to respond to tomorrow's safety challenges.

And, we need to remember how far we've come.
I was talking the other night with on of your board members, Andre Duse, the new CEO of Swiss. And, he was telling me that he started out as a crop-duster down in Louisiana. He was explaining to me that of the four pilots who started for the company, only two remained at the end of the first year. Now, crop-dusting remains a dangerous part of the profession. But, times have changed and we talked at length about the fact that the margins of safety have grown increasingly robust in all aspects of the aviation industry.

I am confident, that if we work together we can prevent accidents before they happen - - especially in many developing nations around the world. If we focus our collective efforts - - our research, our education, and our advocacy - - we will make our margin of safety even more robust in the years that lie ahead.

Thank you.
 


Speeches & Testimony