The NTSB originated in the Air Commerce Act of 1926, in which the U.S. Congress charged the U.S. Department of Commerce with investigating the causes of aircraft accidents. Later, that responsibility was given to the Civil Aeronautics Board's Bureau of Aviation Safety, when it was created in 1940.
In 1967, Congress consolidated all transportation agencies into a new U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and established the NTSB as an independent agency placed within the DOT for administrative purposes. In creating the NTSB, Congress envisioned that a single organization with a clearly defined mission could more effectively promote a higher level of safety in the transportation system than the individual modal agencies working separately. Since 1967, the NTSB has investigated accidents in the aviation, highway, marine, pipeline, and railroad modes, as well as accidents related to the transportation of hazardous materials.
In 1974, Congress reestablished the NTSB as a completely separate entity, outside the DOT, reasoning that "
...No federal agency can properly perform such (investigatory) functions unless it is totally separate and independent from any other ... agency of the United States. " Because the DOT has broad operational and regulatory responsibilities that affect the safety, adequacy, and efficiency of the transportation system, and transportation accidents may suggest deficiencies in that system, the NTSB's independence was deemed necessary for proper oversight. The NTSB, which has no authority to regulate, fund, or be directly involved in the operation of any mode of transportation, conducts investigations and makes recommendations from an objective viewpoint.
In 1996, Congress assigned the NTSB the additional responsibility of coordinating Federal assistance to families of aviation accident victims. While originally legislated to provide assistance following major aviation accidents, the program has expanded to provide assistance in all modes of transportation on a case-by-case basis.
In 2000, the agency embarked on a major initiative to increase employee technical skills and make our investigative expertise more widely available to the transportation community by establishing the NTSB Academy. The George Washington University Virginia campus was selected as the Academy's home. The NTSB took occupancy of the new facility in August 2003. On October 1, 2006, the name of the NTSB Academy was changed to the NTSB Training Center to better reflect the internal training mission of the facility.
Since its inception, the NTSB has investigated more than 149,000 aviation accidents and thousands of surface transportation accidents. On call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, NTSB investigators travel throughout the country and to every corner of the world to investigate significant accidents and develop factual records and safety recommendations with one aim—to ensure that such accidents never happen again. The NTSB's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements highlights safety-critical actions that DOT modal administrations, the USCG, and others need to take to help prevent accidents and save lives.
To date, the NTSB has issued over 15,000 safety recommendations to more than 2,400 recipients. Because the NTSB has no formal authority to regulate the transportation industry, our effectiveness depends on our reputation for conducting thorough, accurate, and independent investigations and for producing timely, well-considered recommendations to enhance transportation safety.