Remarks by Jim Hall, Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
before the Flight Safety Foundation Board of Directors
Washington, D.C.
December 4, 1995

Thank you for inviting me here tonight. It is a real pleasure to share this dinner with you and to have the opportunity to speak to you for a few minutes. I am honored to be among this esteemed gathering of aviation safety experts, as well as the impressive list of safety leaders on the Flight Safety Foundation Board of Governors.

As many of you know, I do not have an aviation background; however, I have the pleasure of being the Chairman of a small agency that has aviation accident investigation and safety expertise without equal in the world. Our two organizations share a common admirable goal: The prevention of aircraft accidents.

For 50 years, the Flight Safety Foundation has acted as a neutral clearinghouse for safety information, identified threats to safety, and -- and this is important -- has recommended practical solutions to them. In that regard, your mission is similar to our mandate, which is to investigate accidents and make recommendations to prevent similar accidents from recurring.

As Chairman of the Safety Board, I am eager to hear from any creditable source that has ideas for improving safety. This week I will attend the aviation industry-sponsored Aviation Safety Initiative Review being held in New Orleans, which is following up on the January 1995 aviation industry "summit." I look forward to learning about the progress of the many initiatives begun at that conference, as the industry strives for the goal of "zero accidents."

I fully support any concerted measure to improve the already excellent safety record of the civil aviation industry. I believe that extraordinary measures are essential to achieve a reduction in the accident rates because we have essentially prevented the "easy" accidents. In general, the "tough" accidents are the ones that remain. Also, as remarkable as our safety record is today, we all know that if it remains static over the next few decades, the raw number of accidents will rise dramatically because of the hundreds of millions of additional passengers that will be flying each year.

I am here tonight to ask your help in dealing with the "tough" accidents that will confront us in coming years. There are two specific recommendation areas that would go a long way toward preventing major problems in the future.The first area is bringing flight data recorders on airliners up to the state of the art. Right now, regulations permit brand new airliners to operate with what we consider to be inadequate data recorders. The Colorado Springs Boeing 737 had 5 parameters on its flight recorder, while the 737 that crashed in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania last year had 14 parameters.

There is a sense of frustration among the entire air safety industry because we are dealing with two 737 accidents in the last 5 years for which no cause is readily apparent. Our frustrations are rooted in the lack of sufficient flight data recorder parameters to aid in these investigations. As we approach the 21st century, many of our airliners are equipped with FDRs that gather barely more information than the old foil recorders from the dawn of the jet age.

The need for expanded flight data recorder parameters on many airplanes, with particular emphasis on some models of the Boeing 737, has been placed on the Safety Board's "Most Wanted" safety recommendation list. That status illustrates our intense interest in prompting industry and regulatory actions to prevent future accidents by learning more about incidents and accidents from flight recorder data.

In our justification for the expanded flight recorder parameters, we have cited other cases that were solved rapidly and for which immediate corrective actions were developed because of the availability of numerous flight recorder parameters.

The most prominent of these was the crash last year in Roselawn, Indiana, of the ATR-72. In that case, the flight recorder contained about a hundred parameters, including flight control positions, which permitted a very early determination of the circumstances of the accident and the beginning of remedial action by the government and industry.

I urge the members of the Flight Safety Foundation to support the Safety Board in its efforts to enhance the recording of vital information on all air carrier aircraft in order to begin to reach the ideal of zero accidents.

Another "tough" decision pertains to recent safety recommendations issued by the Safety Board on the subject of pilot training records. As the result of its investigation of the Jetstream accident in Morrisville, North Carolina on December 13, 1994, the Safety Board found serious deficiencies in the airline's practices for reviewing pilot applicants' training and employment histories. This issue had been addressed on two previous occasions by the Safety Board, yet the FAA had declined to act to our satisfaction. In the Morrisville case, a pilot, who had been released from another company for inadequate pilot skills, was hired by the accident airline without a thorough review of the pilot's employment history. The circumstances of the accident demonstrated the same pilot deficiencies noted by the previous employer.

In a related matter, the Board found that the airline failed to retain for review qualitative training records of the pilot's performance. Therefore, his demonstrated deficiencies were not detected and corrected. In general, the Safety Board recommendations urged the FAA to require the retention of standardized pilot training records for the purpose of evaluating systematically the individual pilots' performance and the overall effectiveness of the training programs. We also urged the FAA to maintain the records at a central facility for the purpose of review by airlines when they evaluate potential pilot applicants during the selection and hiring practices.

While these recommendations might be difficult to implement, the circumstances of those previous accidents illustrated the need for these tough actions. Again, I solicit the support of the Flight Safety Foundation in this endeavor. I should add that I will be testifying before Congress next week on this subject.

While there are other issues that require FAA attention -- like runway incursions -- improving the data recording capabilities aboard our airliners and ensuring that adequate pilot training information is kept and shared will take us to the next step in our quest to solve the "tough" accidents.

The last note that I wish to touch on involves the expansive international nature of our industry. We have many more airlines operating into our countries. Aircraft, engines, and major components are designed, certified, and manufactured in many countries. This poses several problems that have to be faced.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, has developed the framework for international cooperation; however, the application of that framework is the task of people -- people like you and me.

We at the Safety Board are dedicated to improving international cooperation in all facets of our work, as is your organization. I observed that first hand last June when I attended an international accident prevention and investigation seminar in Moscow. That meeting was organized by the Flight Safety Foundation on behalf of ICAO. The attendance of aviation safety experts from all of the Republics of the former Soviet Union, eastern and western Europe, and North America was an excellent example of the type of efforts that must be made to improve communication on a global scale. Let me close by saying that the National Transportation Safety Board and the Flight Safety Foundation are kindred spirits in the search for solutions to air safety problems, especially the tough problems that are consuming more of our time. You can help us by supporting our flight data recorder and pilot training initiatives.

In the world of aviation safety, by standing still we fall back. We must step up to the next level of safety if we are to avoid an increase in airline accidents. That will include tough, and possibly unpopular, actions. But that is what leadership is all about.

I pledge the Safety Board's continued leadership in these efforts. I hope you are able and willing to join us by exerting your leadership to get these much needed safety improvements adopted before the industry's sterling safety record is eroded.

Thank you.

 

Jim Hall's Speeches