GAASI Advanced Technology Workshop
October 16, 2002
I am glad that I could join you today at this workshop - along with the new FAA Administrator. Those of us at the Safety Board are pleased to know that the FAA is gaining a strong safety advocate, as well as one who appreciates and understands the work of the NTSB. Marion and I have both been cross-fertilized: she went from NTSB to FAA; I went from the FAA (after several intervening years) to the NTSB. I believe both organizations benefit from exposure to the other's work, mindset and personnel. I am looking forward to an even stronger partnership with the FAA to promote our common goal - safety.
The General Aviation Air Safety Investigator's advanced technical workshop represents a critical element of the Safety Board's mission to share the knowledge gained from our investigations to prevent similar accidents from occurring again. I commend GAASI and GAMA and all who are here today on sharing the lessons learned on how to do investigations-for ultimately, it's the quality and thoroughness of our investigations that can allow us to fulfill our mission and save lives.
One example is the Board's recent investigations into two fatal GA accidents involving Lycoming engine malfunction. Our investigations turned up compelling similarities with previous crankshaft failures and crankshaft gear bolt failures in Lycoming engines that were involved in recalls. As a result, the FAA worked with Lycoming to expand the recalled population and prevent an untold number of additional accidents from occurring.
Another example is the work the NTSB did following the crash of a SOCATA TBM 700 in Englewood, Colorado, a few weeks ago. The aircraft hit the terrain following loss of control after takeoff. The NTSB noticed that the pilot injuries were inconsistent with the damage to the cabin, and sent the restraint system and the seat belt assembly to the NTSB lab in Washington for study. Based on tests, the seat belt manufacturer issued a Service Bulletin requiring inspection and possible replacement of a spring in the latch mechanism. There are 40,000 of these assemblies in service, so the safety benefits of this action are significant.
Also of interest were the recent recommendations coming out of the NTSB investigation of the crash of a Gulfstream in March 2001 in Aspen, Colorado. The NTSB recommended that the FAA revise restrictions on nighttime flight in mountainous terrain, and communicate those restrictions to flight crews where those restrictions apply.
Just last week we issued recommendations for pilots operating in "flat light" conditions. These apply specifically for helicopter pilots, but may be of interest to you here. After investigating 23 accidents in Alaska, the NTSB determined that pilots who operate in flat light conditions are not required to be instrument rated or to demonstrate instrument competency. The NTSB also noted that radar altimeters might be useful. We issued recommendations to deal with these findings.
The NTSB is charged by Congress with investigating every GA accident. That comes to about 2000 per year, and that is quite a responsibility for a lean organization. Consequently, we turn from time to time to other parties as a resource to our investigations. We invite the FAA, the manufacturers and other industry organizations to join our investigation and lend their expertise to find out what went wrong. This is called the party system. I believe that the dialogue, the partnerships, the shared ideas which are generated are responsible for the strength of the Board's investigations and recommendations, and a major factor in the Board's credibility.
We've taken this approach since the Safety Board was created in 1967. We have come a long way since then. 35 years ago, we had only one metallurgist, one Cockpit Voice Recorder Lab technician and only two technicians in our Flight Data Recorder Lab. I might add that the flight recorders of that era recorded only five parameters-with a stylus no less, and which could only be read using a magnifying glass and the naked eye. Now we have 7 metallurgists, 4 Cockpit Voice Recorder technicians, and 5 Flight Data Recorder experts. Some of the new FDRs contain 1,000 parameters.
While our resources have expanded, so has the amount of data and field of knowledge.
The complexity and sophistication of aviation accident investigations has grown
dramatically. Meetings such as this one are invaluable in keeping investigators
up to speed in the new technology and in sharing lessons learned after an accident.
I don't need to tell this group that there are exciting advances in the world
of general aviation.
Some of these are:
· Greater use of composites in aircraft. This poses new challenges to accident investigation.
· Proliferation of advanced navigation and guidance systems;
· New safety features, such as the Cirrus recovery parachute system
· The growth in fractional ownership - which challenges us to ensure that we maintain one level of safety in our fleet.
I'm pleased to see that the workshop's agenda is filled with presentations on all of these subjects. These briefings will help investigators develop the most important skill - knowing the right questions to ask and who to ask.
Jeff Guzzetti, our office of Aviation Safety Deputy Director for regional ops, will give you a more detailed briefing later in the workshop on what the Board is working on in some of the areas I just mentioned. He will also tell you about the expansion of the Safety Board's regional offices to better meet GA needs throughout the country.
One more way that we hope to keep pace with advanced technology and the growing complexity of accident investigations is through the new NTSB Academy which we expect to open about a year from now. We intend to bring the world's best resources to our investigators to help them stay proficient and knowledgeable on new techniques and technologies. We plan to invite others from around the world, from industry, and from emergency response agencies to take our courses, to exchange ideas and to expand the world of accident investigation.
All of you can take pride in knowing that your investigations-and what you learn--makes our skies safer and save lives. You have the NTSB's support and I hope you find the next days productive, fascinating and ultimately helpful to the important work you do.