Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Closing Statement
Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC — August 27, 2012
Airplane Crash — National Championship Air Races
Reno-Stead Airport, NV — September 16, 2011
(As Prepared for Delivery)


In closing, I want to recognize the NTSB staff for their hard work bringing this report to the Board, in particular, the staff from the Office of Aviation Safety and from the Office of Research and Engineering. Howard Plagens, Investigator-in-Charge, and his team did an outstanding job.

Today's report is particularly poignant for us at the NTSB because the medical aspects of the investigation, notably the research and recommendations on high-G training and the feasibility of G-suits, was conducted by the NTSB's Medical Officer, the late Mike Duncan, M.D. Mike had just joined the NTSB when he was called to play an instrumental role in this investigation, just as he played integral roles throughout his public service career. He is missed.

As I was reminded by my recent visit to EAA AirVenture, aviators and aviation enthusiasts are a passionate community. In Oshkosh, my colleagues and I saw both the passion for flight and a commitment to safety from the air boss and from many others who work so hard to put on a safe and enjoyable air show. But, I don't have to travel to Wisconsin to see passion about aviation. We have it here at the NTSB. We have many passionate pilots and many more passionate safety professionals.

Some of our employees join the aviation enthusiasts who travel to Reno-Stead year in and year out to provide support, to volunteer or to simply watch racers defy gravity with the added excitement of speed and competition.

But in our communications with the families of those who were killed and injured we recognize and appreciate that each life is precious. We know injury, whether physical or emotional, takes time to heal and in many ways never goes away.

Last year's tragic crash with its fatalities and injuries spurred our team to work diligently to understand what happened and to identify ways to improve the safety of races in the future.

Years ago, Ernest Gann, in writing about the early days of aviation, said that for pilots "fate is the hunter." Today, with so many advances and improvements in equipment, training and safety procedures, fate is no longer the hunter of pilots. We all agree that when it comes to air races and air shows, the risks to spectators should be well understood and addressed. Innocent bystanders should never have to rely on fate for their safety.

We stand adjourned.