Thank you, Ed, for that kind introduction. I want to welcome all of you here to our new Board Room and Conference Center. You are the first group outside of the NTSB to use this new facility - I hope you approve of our renovations. It's only been open a few months and we're still working out the bugs. It will receive its first real test later this month when we hold our two-day Board meeting on the TWA flight 800 accident. That meeting will be the culmination of over 49 months of arduous work by our staff to determine the cause of that accident. Work that they accomplished while investigating the other major aviation accidents that occurred during that time, including two FedEx accidents at Newburgh, NY and Newark, NJ; Fine Air, KA flight 801; American Airlines flight 1420; EgyptAir flight 990; Alaska Air flight 261; and Emery flight 14, and the more than 2,000 general aviation (GA) accidents that occur annually.
Granted, few of those 2,000 GA accidents, with some exceptions, such as the accidents involving John Denver and JFK, Jr., garner the same public and media attention as the others - but they are equally important to the NTSB and to you and to those who flight your planes.
About 50 percent of the Board's budget (this year it was $57 million - enough to fund the Department of Transportation for nine hours of one day) is dedicated to aviation safety. About half of those funds are allocated to the regional and field offices, which are strategically located around the country in Parsippany, NJ; Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Denver; Dallas; LA; Seattle; and Anchorage.
Most of the general aviation accidents are investigated by these offices and their 47 investigators. These men and women have a variety of professional backgrounds and skills in various disciplines in the aerospace industry ranging from safety, operations, maintenance, airworthiness, and aircraft design. They are responsible for thoroughly investigating the nearly 2,000 GA accidents annually to identify safety issues and to make safety recommendations that will prevent similar accidents from recurring. They are the individuals who routinely interact with your companies, work with your safety officials at accident sites, and do component testing at your laboratories. They are on-call around the clock, including weekends and holidays, ready to launch to the scene of an accident, sometimes under hazardous conditions. They interact with the surviving family members of crash victims, updating them and reassuring them of the agency's efforts to find out why the accident occurred - and, hopefully, preventing it from happening again to another family. Their job is a tough one and often goes unnoticed, without the public recognition associated with some of the high profile accident investigations conducted by our major go-team launches from headquarters. But, their job is no less important - and certainly no less significant.
In my six years as Chairman, one of my top priorities has been to ensure that our investigators are familiar with and adequately trained in state-of-the art technology and new investigative techniques.
Over the past few years, members of the Safety Board's staff have attended and participated in GAMA's annual workshop for General Aviation Air Safety Investigators (GAASI). That workshop is an excellent opportunity for industry and government personnel to improve their investigative skills. I support such workshops and always look for opportunities to have my staff train with your companies - opportunities such as the aviation safety stand-down course at Bombardier being held in Wichita next weekend that one of our regional investigators will be attending.
Last month, the regional directors and I had the opportunity to meet in Wichita with several members of your Accident Investigation Subcommittee to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. This was the second such meeting this year between the Board's staff and the subcommittee - the first one was at the Jeppesen's headquarters near Denver, Colorado. These meetings have proven to be very productive and beneficial - and will help enhance our working relationship and ensure that accident investigations are conducted in compliance within the Safety Board's policies and procedures.
Later this year, the Board will also be conducting an investigators' workshop for all of our investigators, in all modes. The workshop will focus on many of the skills and areas of knowledge that make our investigators successful - including understanding and applying NTSB rules, interviewing, development of analyses, and on-site safety. The Safety Board will be bringing in several renowned experts from outside the Safety Board to discuss these topics, along with several from inside the Board who have been recognized for their investigative skills and expertise. We hope that this will be an ongoing effort to ensure that our investigators maintain the high skill level that has brought the Safety Board its outstanding reputation for transportation safety.
And, on September 21st and 22d, here in this facility, we will be holding a symposium on issues related to improving transportation safety in general aviation. During the symposium, we plan to review recent accident investigations conducted by NTSB regional investigators and to discuss the analysis of causes, factors, and preventive measures by panels consisting of government/industry experts and safety officials. More information on the symposium is available at our website, www.ntsb.gov.
In the next year, the NTSB will significantly expand its training program when we open our own training academy dedicated to enhancing the skills of investigators in all facets of transportation safety. The academy's courses will be developed and taught by experienced accident investigators, who also have the necessary expertise and formal training in educational methodology, to make our programs the best available training in accident investigation techniques in the world. In addition to training courses, we will offer conferences and seminars designed to maintain and advance the state of the art.
Before I close, I want to congratulate all of you for the general aviation manufacturing industry's recent achievements. In 1996, when I last addressed GAMA's Board of Directors, the situation was not as optimistic. The number of accidents had increased to 2,053 accidents, the first increase after a 15-year decline. And, only about 1,130 GA aircraft were sold with billings of $3.1 billion.
Since then, there's been a more than two-fold growth in the industry. In 1999, there were 2,525 aircraft shipments and the highest industry billing in history -- $7.9 billion. About 90 percent of the world's GA aircraft are manufactured in the U.S. More importantly, this was all accomplished as the accident rate declined to a record low -- 7.05 and 1.26 per 100,000 hours of flight for total and fatal accidents respectively.
Obviously, it will take vigilance and diligence by all of us to ensure the continued safety of the GA community. And, working together, we can do it. Thank you again for visiting us here at our offices and for inviting me to be here today.
Let me stop now and take your questions.