Remarks by Jim Hall, Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
before the Aviation Safety Initiative Review
New Orleans, Louisiana
December 7, 1995

I'd like to thank Al Prest, Walt Coleman, John O'Brien, and Chris Hart for inviting me here and for giving me the opportunity to address this distinguished group of aviation safety advocates as you wrap up this two-day conference.

Now that our work is just about done, I'd like to take just a few moments to reflect on what has been accomplished, both at this meeting and since the last safety summit. I'd also like to take a look at the road that lies ahead.

First of all, let me congratulate you on a job well done. Secretary Pena took the initiative to convene the aviation community, and to dedicate these efforts to the goal of zero accidents. Now his initiative is paying off, in the accomplishments we've heard about this afternoon, and in the goals that have been set. I especially commend the private sector for taking the leadership role in yesterday's and today's safety review. It has been a most extraordinary example of what can be accomplished when industry, labor and government work together. I had the chance to visit all of the six working groups this morning as you did your business, and I was impressed with the spirit of cooperation that prevailed in each one. We all have our different points of view, but when it comes to safety we need to work out our differences for the good of all, and I'm seeing a lot of that today.

One of the powerful things that has grown out of the first summit, out of this meeting, and from all of the work that's gone on in between, is a feeling of trust among the airlines, the unions, and the various government agencies. As powerful as it is, that trust is fragile. I pledge my own efforts to building the trust between us all, as we move forward.

Today, trust was converted to action in the area of flight operations quality assurance, or FOQA. Next month, for the first time, airlines will begin to share information that's been recorded during routine flight operations with the rest of the aviation community. FOQA is extremely valuable for the early identification of safety issues that need to be addressed by each air carrier. You've made impressive progress on FOQA, so that as I talk to you right now there are recorders on U.S. airliners in flight gathering information that might be vital to air safety. To get the most safety out of FOQA, I support the sharing of information about both operational and airworthiness factors, and I will work with the rest of the aviation community to resolve everyone's issues and concerns, and to share, and use shared data, appropriately.

I learned a lot this morning as I traveled from room to room. I saw a lot of progress on maintenance human factors, which is a growing focus of the Safety Board's activities based on accidents and incidents we've investigated. Since the last summit, the FAA has recognized an organization, the International Society of Aviation Maintenance Professionals, which developed a code of professional and ethical standards. These standards will be the benchmark by which the maintenance profession will be measured. Also, there's been a lot of progress in identifying human factors issues in maintenance and in human factors training for mechanics and FAA inspectors. We need to keep up the momentum in these important areas.

You've also made significant progress in the areas of crew training, ATC and weather issues, safety data collection and use, emerging technologies, and flight operations procedures.

Friends, I hope that Al's wish from yesterday will come true, and that all of these safety initiatives will work so well, that we won't have to take any more flight data recorders out of crashed airplanes.

Foremost in my mind, though, is the responsibility given to the National Transportation Safety Board by the American people to investigate accidents. In the event that all of these efforts to prevent accidents fail and another accident occurs, we at the Safety Board need to be in a position to get all of the information we need to find the probable cause. As you know, we've asked for improvements in the parameters recorded by flight data recorders. Our requests are motivated by the whole community's frustration as we face two unsolved major airline accidents. I'm sorry to say that since the last summit in January, there has been little progress in upgrading FDR requirements. I'd like to give you my perspective on the problem. We are all looking for things that, if they exist at all, are almost certainly so rare that they almost vanish from the statistical record. The only way to catch something this rare is to equip 100 percent of the fleet with upgraded recorders, and they need to be recorders that can survive a crash if necessary. I understand how difficult these upgrades are for many of you. I thank you for the support you have all given to the concept of FDR upgrades for newly built airplanes, and I hope I've been able to express a little better why we need them on some of the older airplanes.

When you look back in history, the airline industry's progress toward greater safety has been the result of accidents, and what we learned from accident investigations. Coming out of this meeting, there's unfinished business to be taken care of, and hope for a change in the future.

A lot of the initiatives being discussed here are built on safety recommendations that were made previously by the Safety Board but have not been fully accomplished by industry and government. It's rewarding to see today how these recommendations can be implemented, in a cooperative way, into the everyday operations of the industry. At the same time, we're talking about how to address safety issues in the 21st century. Because of advances in technology, we have the new opportunity to learn from everyday normal operations, and from incidents, that will prevent us from having to learn from as many accidents as in the past. But this step forward, that might someday lead to zero accidents, cannot be achieved without a change in the culture of cooperation between all of the groups involved with aviation in the United States. That's why it's significant to see all of the parties coming together to move this agenda forward.

It's significant both in terms of the unfinished work that previous accidents identified, and in the work that can be done in how we approach safety in the 21st century through enhanced accident prevention. In one of the groups today, a moderator stated that just because something appears on a piece of paper out of this meeting today doesn't mean it will ever be done. This is a challenge, because it won't be done unless we have the foresight and persistence to make a change in the aviation safety culture of the country.

Together, let's fix the problems we know about and create a framework for the future. I'd like all of you through your safety accomplishments to remove the need for a National Transportation Safety Board. And I'll do my best to help you. Let's not let the difficulties of today keep us from getting to tomorrow. Let's work together for a safe 1996, and beyond.

Thank you.

 

Jim Hall's Speeches