Statement of Jim Hall, Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
at the Opening of the NTSB Exhibit
National Air & Space Museum
December 3, 1997
Thank you, Admiral Engen, for your most appropriate remarks, and thank you all for coming. Welcome to the opening of the NTSB exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. It is a distinct honor for the Board to have this exhibit open in the most visited museum in the world, in the year of our 30th Anniversary.
I am honored that we have such a distinguished audience here today to commemorate the opening of this exhibit. First, I would like to recognize the large number of current NTSB employees, former Board Members and the approximate 50 former employees here today. It is your professionalism and dedication that has given the Safety Board the world-wide credibility and respect to warrant an exhibit at this museum. Next I would like to recognize the large number of industry and government officials, members of Congressional staffs and members of the news media who have so invaluably assisted us, over the years, in our important safety efforts.
The seed for this exhibit came from Pat Cariseo, of our Public Affairs staff, who suggested it would be a fitting commemoration for our 30th anniversary. When I asked Admiral Engen for assistance, he graciously agreed and he personally announced his offer at our 30th anniversary celebration. I want to add that his generosity was, I’m sure, in no way influenced by the fact that he is a distinguished former Member of the Safety Board.
This exhibit starts with a picture of President Johnson signing the legislation that created the Board on April 1, 1967. In this room, today, are many people who were part of the Safety Board, or the organizations helping the Safety Board, on that date. But, I’ll bet that there are few people who envisioned that the then-fledgling agency would become the respected world-wide safety organization it is today.
This exhibit does an excellent job of telling the NTSB story through photographs, artifacts, and graphics from the investigation of an accident to our most important product, the safety improvements resulting from our findings and recommendations. But you have to look behind the photographs to see the 16-hour days, the late nights, the working weekends and holidays, the missed family occasions and difficult working conditions – be it the heat of the Everglades, the depths of the oceans, or the cold of Alaska.
The exhibit concludes with the graphic portrayal of some of our most important safety improvements, but they reflect just a small number of the accomplishments resulting from the more than 10,000 safety recommendations the Board has issued over the past 30 years. Also, these artifacts don’t show the dramatic impact of these accomplishments. For example, the implementation of Ground Proximity Warning Systems on airliners has virtually eliminated accidents involving controlled impact with the ground in this country; and as a result of windshear detection equipment and enhanced windshear training there has been only one windshear-related accident involving a major airliner in the last 11 years.
The exhibit also does not reflect the extensive amount of work that has been accomplished by the aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration to bring these improvements to fruition.
And, we could have an equal exhibit highlighting the Board’s work and accomplishments in the surface transportation modes – highway, rail, marine and pipeline.
This exhibit cannot identify the accident that did not happen or the life that was not forever altered through the efforts of not only the Safety Board, but also the transportation industry and other government agencies. However, the exhibit does remind us of the mutual pride we can have in the implementation of the safety enhancements that statistics show contribute to the United States having one of the safest transportation systems in the world.
The development of this exhibit and today’s reception, like the work of the Safety Board, was accomplished by many persons inside and outside the Board. I want to personally thank Boeing Commercial Aircraft Company, Allied Signal, Airbus Industries, and United Airlines for their generous support. And I want to echo Admiral Engen’s thanks to Michael Levins, a long-time executive at the Safety Board, who has spent the better part of six months collecting items and drawing up plans for this exhibit.
Thomas Jefferson said, "The care of human life and happiness…is the first and only legitimate object of good government." That simple phrase describes the mission and goals of the NTSB and we would be remiss unless we thank the American people for the trust they have placed in us.
We hope you enjoy the exhibit and this morning’s hospitality. Thank you, again, for your support.