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Remarks at the NTSB Academy groundbreaking, Loudoun County, Virginia
Jim Hall
NTSB Academy groundbreaking, Loudoun County, Virginia

I also want to welcome all of you to this groundbreaking ceremony for the new NTSB Academy. I particularly want to welcome my wife, Annie, and one of my daughters, Molly, who travelled from Chattanooga to be with us today. This is a great day for the transportation community and one that the National Transportation Safety Board has been anticipating for a long time. I can think of no better way to end my tenure as Chairman of the Safety Board than to start something so new, so important, and so valuable.

Today, the NTSB begins a chapter in our history that promises to be full of new challenges and opportunities. In the not too distant future, this site will be the home of a state-of-the-art training facility designed to enhance the skills of our own investigators, representatives from the many industry and government parties who participate in our investigations, as well as accident investigators from around the world.

This facility is the fruition of a dream of many individuals. We have long envisioned a modern facility that would permit us to expand our capability to advanced investigation techniques, to use new technologies, to teach the lessons learned from past accidents, and to research how to prevent future mishaps. This facility will allow us to do that and more.

The facility we begin today will house the reconstruction of the TWA flight 800 wreckage. That structure will serve as a continual reminder of the human suffering we seek to avoid. And, we dedicate this facility to the families of flight 800 and to all of the families of all of the victims of transportation accidents. And we recommit ourselves to ensuring independent, unbiased, professional accident investigations that will help prevent other families from suffering similar fates.

The TWA 800 reconstruction will serve as an educational tool to train investigators about the complexities of modern accident investigations and its presence will serve to remotivate them to perform the mission entrusted to them.

  There are many people to thank for making the Academy a reality.

First, and foremost, Congressman Frank Wolf for not only his long-time support for the Board and its mission, and especially for his support and assistance on this endeavor over the last few years. Thank you, Congressman, for being a true friend and ardent proponent for transportation safety.

Secondly, Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and the staff of George Washington University for your willingness to take on this endeavor. You have a well-earned reputation for your expertise and research in transportation-related areas. We want to draw on that expertise and to work with you to identify other organizations that can help us advance our mutual goals. The Safety Board staff is enthusiastic about this new partnership with you and we're looking forward to building upon that foundation to create a long-term relationship that will benefit not only our two institutions, but the transportation community as well.

Lastly, the staff of the Safety Board. This effort has been in the planning stages for a number of years and has required the time and talents of many individuals at the Board. I especially want to thank Peter Goelz, the Board's former Managing Director, and Bob Gilson for their tireless efforts to help us move beyond the idea of an academy to its realization. And, finally, I want to thank the men and women of the Safety Board for a job well done. I will miss you.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "The care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate object of good government." Certainly, they exemplify the NTSB's principal goals.

That's why, over the years, we have recommended that automobile air bags be depowered, that airline cargo compartments have smoke detectors and fire suppression equipment, that railroads and transit systems install positive train separation to prevent collisions, and that gas utilities install excess flow valves to prevent many household gas explosions. All designed to ensure the care of human life - and, perhaps, their happiness, if it means that they or one of their loved ones are not lost in a tragic, preventable accident.

And, that's why we are here today - to ensure that those who are given the responsibility to find the cause of a transportation accident and prevent another from occurring - are as well trained and prepared as they can be. This facility will help us do that.

Thank you all again for coming and for being a part of this historic day.