The Board investigates about 2,000 aviation accidents and incidents a year, and about 500 accidents in the other modes of transportation: rail, highway, marine, and pipeline. With about 400 employees, the Board accomplishes this task by leveraging its resources. One way the Board does this is by designating other organizations or companies as parties to its investigations.
The NTSB designates other organizations or corporations as parties to the investigation. Other than the FAA, which by law is automatically designated a party, the NTSB has complete discretion over which organizations it designates as parties to the investigation. Only those organizations or corporations that can provide expertise to the investigation are granted party status and only those persons who can provide us with needed technical or specialized expertise are permitted to serve on the investigation. Persons in legal or litigation positions are not allowed to be assigned to the investigation. All party members report to the NTSB.
Eventually, each investigative group chairman prepares a factual report and each of the parties in the group is asked to verify the accuracy of the report. The factual reports are placed in the public docket.
Parties do not participate in the analysis and report writing phase of NTSB investigations; however, they are invited to submit their proposed findings of cause and proposed safety recommendations, which are made part of the public docket. The Board then deliberates over the final report in a public Board meeting in Washington, D.C. Non-Safety Board personnel, including parties and family members, cannot interact with the Board during that meeting.