Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Christopher Hart, and as the Chairman of the NTSB it is my privilege to welcome you to the NTSB’s annual air carrier disaster response and family assistance meeting.
Many of us call this the Chicago Meeting, no matter where it’s held, because the first annual meeting was held in Chicago in 2000, to share the family disaster assistance lessons learned in the wake of the tragic Alaska Airlines Flight 261 accident. After that first meeting, the name stuck.
Sharon Bryson (motion to Sharon) was at the first Chicago Meeting, and she has played a critical role in implementing the U.S. Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act almost since its inception. As you know, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Act, as well as the 20th anniversary of the tragic TWA 800 accident that was the catalyst for the Act. Through her vision, fortitude, and collaborative work with many of your airlines and with other public and private partners, Sharon helped make family assistance programs the successful reality that they are today. The aviation family assistance programs mandated by the Act have been so successful that in the US, similar legislation was enacted within the passenger rail industry, and we have also applied the programs in other modes. In addition, similar programs have been instituted in aviation around the world, thanks to ICAO.
Thank you, Sharon, for all that you have done for the traveling public and their families all over the world.
The purpose of this meeting, like that first meeting in Chicago, is to bring together air carriers to hear from one another about recent developments in family assistance planning and response, and to share lessons learned from accidents, incidents and exercises.
Today’s meeting includes more than 90 participants representing 45 airlines from four continents, as well as Amtrak, the U.S. passenger railroad. This gives all of you an opportunity to better prepare your companies to meet the needs of families and survivors in the aftermath of future transportation disasters.
I would like to thank American Airlines, British Airways, and Delta Air Lines for being here as presenters today. They will be discussing their lessons learned, and how they are working to continuously improve their emergency preparedness programs.
We are also fortunate to have the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance, or OVA, to discuss their programs for assisting victims of criminal wrongdoing and their families. The NTSB has benefitted from the FBI’s assistance for decades in a variety of ways during our accident investigations, and has collaborated with the OVA regarding family assistance operations on several occasions. Today representatives from OVA will discuss how their family assistance program is implemented after intentional acts of harm, which have recently become more of a concern in many aspects of daily life, including transportation.
The commercial aviation industry has a longstanding history of extensive efforts to prevent accidents and incidents. The industry has shown the power of collaboration, where accident prevention is concerned, to continuously improve its safety record. In preparation for those transportation disasters that nonetheless occur, these Chicago Meetings allow you to apply the power of collaboration to continuously improve your family assistance programs.
We in government rely on your airlines’ family assistance operations when disaster strikes, whether it is due to an accident or a criminal event. I am confident that the information discussed today will be valuable to the continuous improvement of your preparations and your programs.
So thank you for joining us here today so that all of us can serve the public better.